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Twitter Co-Founder Unveils Jelly, but to Whom?


Biz Stone debuts a photo-oriented Q&A platform, but is this something that users want or haven't already used?

Last April, Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) co-founder Biz Stone hinted at a new project he and his team were working on. Keeping things clandestine at first, he asked the question on his company blog, "What is Jelly?" In the months that followed, the answer was partially revealed in tiny fragments. It was to be a question-and-answer platform with a mobile approach.

This week, Jelly was revealed to be little more than that vague description.

Specifically, Jelly allows iOS (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Android (NASDAQ:GOOG) users to snap and upload photos to their social networks, utilizing a crowdsourced "group mind" to answer questions about the picture. For example, someone could take a photo of an unusual animal they see on a hike, upload the picture to Jelly, and ask their followers, "What in the world is this?" The app collects these photo queries and answers posted by their friends in a timeline, letting users mark their favorite responses and share them with others within and outside their particular social network.

Stone says the name Jelly is inspired by the neurological decentralization of the jellyfish, emphasizing groupthink and a service that he says is "more 'we' than 'me.'"

Unfortunately, Jelly enters a marketplace saturated with Q&A services, photo-sharing apps, and an excess of social networks -- leaving a significant portion of its target audience weak and weary to the thought of signing up for yet another.

At its core, Jelly's Q&A format has already been serviced by sites like Yahoo Answers (NASDAQ:YHOO), Quora, and for years -- each with its own style of responders. (Yahoo Answers provides responses from the average Joe, whereas Quora encourages experts and those with inside info to respond.) Even existing social networks like Twitter, Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), and Google+ already act as Q&A services with one's friends and followers -- though the quality of responses depends on the number of people in your circles, not to mention their intelligence and expertise. So as a Q&A app, Jelly is already competing against a wide array of established sites and apps that perform the very function it's presenting.

And we haven't even gotten to the photo-sharing apps.

Instagram, Snapchat, Flickr, Pinterest, Tumblr, among many others -- as well as the aforementioned social networks -- provide an abundance of online venues for users to upload a picture with an accompanying query. So, at its launch, Jelly doesn't appear to offer anything beyond what these services already do.

Also, consider the very act of taking a photo, uploading it alongside a question, and waiting for a response. Unless you have tens of thousands of followers, the wait for an answer could take far longer than what a quick Google search could produce. In fact, Google has had a photo Q&A service for years called Google Goggles -- and it's practically instantaneous.

Using image recognition, the app scans a photo taken by a mobile device and uses its comprehensive knowledge graph to identify what exactly you're capturing and deliver information based on the subject. So by the time a Jelly follower finally gets around to blue-skying an answer, Google Goggles has already provided the information. (The app also recognizes barcodes and QR codes and can even solve Sudoku puzzles, all of which would obviously take some time for your Jelly circle to decipher.)

Of course, as Jelly evolves, there could very well be an automatic image recognition system put into place, but that still gives Google Goggles -- and similar services -- a lengthy head start with an established user base.

Overall, there isn't anything about Jelly that stands out as original or unique. That's not to say it'll be unable to find a fan base, but the majority of its potential audience has been there, photographed that.

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