Facebook lets users question the world

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Just how knowledgeable do you think the average Facebook user is? Not very, perhaps. But the company reckons that by adding everybody's expertise together, it can 'crowdsource' the answer to questions.

With its new beta service, an 'Ask Question' button appears on a user's home page allowing them to ask the full 500 million-strong Facebook population anything from the best restaurant in town to an explanation of String Theory.

Users can add a photo, or structure the question as a poll.

"Want to know what type of flower is growing in your back yard? Take a photo and attach it to the question," says Blake Ross, director of product management at Facebook.

"Wondering which video game system is better for your eight-year-old cousin: Nintendo Wii or XBox? Make a poll."

The company emphasizes that questions posed through the button are visible to anyone on the internet - so if you want to ask your closest friends about embarrassing medical symptoms or whether you

should sleep with your boss, you're probably better off doing it as a normal status update.

Tagging questions will, Facebook hopes, mean that they're targeted at people with a particular interest and expertise in the topic.

"For instance, if you have a question about what type of camera you should buy, you could tag it with 'Photography'. If you want to find the best bike routes in the area, you might tag it with 'Cycling'," says Ross.

The service is in drect competition with sites such as Ask.com, which recently launched a similar service in beta.  With 500 million users, Facebook has a bigger potential pool of information and opinion - as long as you think bigger means better.