Leading article: Who do you think you are?

Click to follow

When our ancestors wanted to find answers to important questions they visited oracles, shamans or prophets. Our own generation tends to visit the internet. The trouble is that the web can be just as unreliable a source of information as those that were consulted by our predecessors. It is a brave patient that follows the random (and often conflicting) medical advice of Doctor Google.

That is the gap in the market that the new site Quora hopes to fill. This peer-review question and answer network, set up by two former Facebook employees, is different from existing online inquiry sites because it tears the veil of anonymity from those purporting to provide the solutions. The belief is that asking contributors to put their name to something improves the quality of work.

It is impossible to say at this stage whether Quora will be successful. If anyone could distinguish the online hits from the misses at an early stage, they would be very wealthy indeed. But the site has already attracted an impressive number of academic and expert contributors – and 500,000 users.

For the past 10 years, the internet has been the playground of the anonymous contributor. But if Quora becomes the new online phenomenon, the next decade might be one of accountability.