Facebook today announced the launch of a new project called Questions. It's still in beta, and will only be available to about 1% of Facebook users at first. But it puts Facebook into yet another competitive arena against Google and other companies that are trying to cash-in on the Q&A.
Google's total dominance over the keyword-based search market has led other companies to try and corner the market on a more direct, Q&A type search. Ask.com recently relaunched with a Q&A strategy, and Google itself bought Aardvark, which handles similar queries. But Facebook is in a unique position to enter the space—and use it effectively.
Any Facebook user can ask a question from a few different venues, including a Question Dashboard, the search bar, and the bar used to update statuses (there'll be a link to "ask a question" above those multi-purpose bars). Searches can be tagged, and Facebook is probably hoping users will take advantage of the tagging system, since that'll help make the service useful for everyone. Oddly, even more corporate entities on Facebook, like a company's fan page, can ask or answer questions, which might be a nice tool for marketing research.
All of the questions are completely public, not just to other Facebook users but to search engines and the general public as well. Facebook will use a big pop-pop window when a user first asks a question so that user knows exactly how public the question will be. (So be careful about the grosser bodily-fluid-related medical questions.)
That select 1% who get to take part in the beta should already see Questions in their news feed, and it will be rolled out to everyone else over time. If you have pictures or feedback on how well it works, drop us a line: firstname.lastname@example.org. No one here was invited to Questions, probably because we ask too many.