INDOSPLAINING

Indians have found an online haven where it’s OK for them to know it all

Quartz india
Quartz india

Quora, a question-and-answer community site claiming to have information on over 500,000 topics, is more popular in India than any other country outside the US, where it was founded in 2010 by two early Facebook employees, Adam D’Angelo and Charlie Cheever.

A company spokesperson told Quartz that while the US contributed 50% of its traffic, India supplied 20%. According to the latest available data, traffic to Quora in February this year neared 2.2 million visitors from the US, which means India’s monthly visitors would add up to around 880,000. Compared to Facebook’s 100 million users in India and Twitter’s estimated 33 million accounts, the traffic doesn’t stand out. But, as a New York Times article noted, Quora is as focused on engagement and quality as it is on scaling up.

Besides, analytics firm Alexa—which estimates website usage through browser plugins—said the traffic was more like 31.7% for the US and 35.2% for India. Alexa’s traffic estimates and ranks are based on the browsing behaviour of people in its global data panel, which is a sample of all Internet users. Quora is the 51st most popular website in India, according to Alexa.

The Google Trends for Quora’s regional interest show India at 100 and the US at 21, where the numbers represent search volume relative to the highest point on the map (which is always 100). Among Indian cities, Pilani (Rajasthan) topped at 100, Roorkee (Uttarakhand) at 44, and Kharagpur (West Bengal) at 31. Coincidentally, all three cities are home to India’s premier engineering schools, including Indian Institute of Technology in Roorkee and Kharagpur.

Image 11-5-14 at 1.29 PM

The popularity in India is a subject of discussion on Quora itself. To the question “Why are there disproportionately so many Indians on Quora compared to average Internet demographics?,” the most voted answer came from by one Balaji Viswanathan, who attributed the popularity to large English-speaking population in India, “naturally talking and debating people,” and curiosity to learn about India’s “fascinating and mind-boggling” diversity. Viswanathan’s answer—organized in bullet points—is indeed a quintessential example of what a talkative, explaining Indian would say.

On Quora, there literally is no such thing as a stupid question. The queries can be about anything (sample: “Why do Indians detest dark skin?” or “Why do Indians worship Ganesh and yet do nothing to respect elephants?”)—and so can be the answers. Nothing guarantees the answers to be right, but the community can vote preferred ones. A combination of the number of preferences received and the reputation of the person answering (gained through previous responses) determine the answer’s ranking.

One Rishin S Babu, to the question about Quora’s popularity in India, lists its valid and veracious information. “I find it fascinating that many Silicon Valley celebrities answer our queries here. Another aspect that have glued me to Quora is the first person accounts that I could find on almost all topics,” he writes. Some users also point out to its less argumentative, and more rational approach in discussions, when compared to Facebook.

Though Quora allows embed images in answers, its homepage and news feed are primarily text-driven. Non-serious content, like memes, are strictly not allowed, Marc Bodnick, head of business and community at Quora, pointed out in an interview earlier this year. Memes “don’t have a very long shelf life, and Quora wants to be an evergreen library of content. Secondly, they don’t actually answer anyone’s question,” he had said.

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