The simplicity of Yahoo! Answers is at the source of its surging popularity. Anyone can ask questions or provide answers. Yahoo’s Rating and Reviews platform gives Reputation points to participants. Highly rated answers build a participants Reputation incentivising good participation.
Google Answers on the other hand has been retired. It is no longer accepting new questions. When Google tried to build an online paid “Answers” product it made two mistakes:
1) Google blocked the Mass Participation that is typically required to build vibrant online communities.
Why is Mass participation required? Because typically less than 10% of people build content in an online community — in this case answer questions. The popular thumb-rule for online participation is 1% visitors would be hard-core contributors, 10% mild contributors, and 90% would be beneficiaries quite well shown by a diagram proposed by Bradley Horowitz of Yahoo! By 2006 end, Yahoo! Answers had gained over 60 million unique users on a monthly basis while Google Answers struggled with around 800 participants.
2) Google Answers also ended up partially competing with (freelance) consultants (by using Money as the currency for asking questions and finding answers).
Consultants take years to build their reputation and won’t easily share that expertise for a “bid amount” that is visible to everyone. So “real” experts wouldn’t be lured on Google Answers to answer questions. Secondly, if a hobbyist provided answers that would win the bid over a “professional” consultant — the consultant’s reputation would get blemished. I discovered today, 4 days after the orignial posting that the following text strangely didnt get published earlier. Sorry for the inconvenience:
So by keeping Money as the incentive for asking questions and getting answers Google limited the participation of freelance experts/consultants who could have potentially used Google Answers to gain visibility. Google thus lost a good chunck of the small 1% of hard-core answering participants. Then to perhaps get over the obstacle of non-participation of freelance consultants, Google hired contractors called “Google Answers Researchers” (GARs). GARs would find answers and take payment of the bid amount (while giving 25% to Google).
Researchers were not Google employees, but contractors that were required to complete an application process to be approved to answer for the site. They were limited in number (according to Google, there were more than 500 Researchers; in practice, there were fewer active Researchers). The application process tested their research and communication abilities.
Prices for questions ranged from $2 to $200; after a question was answered, Google kept 25% of the payment, with the answering Researcher receiving the rest. In addition to the Researcher’s fees, a client who was satisfied with the answer could also leave a tip of up to $100.
If a question was not answered, the client would not pay the question’s price. However, in addition to the question’s price, determined by the client, Google also charged a non-refundable $0.50 listing fee. Naturally, the higher the fee and the simpler the question, the more likely it was to be answered. Once a question was answered, it remained available for anyone to browse and comment on for free.