Google Q&A – A Small Step for Microcontent

Last week, I blogged that the “question and answer” search paradigm wasn’t dead at all. Earlier this afternoon, Google responded by launching its Google Q&A feature. Now users can type a one-line question into the search box, and if a simple factual answer exists in the company’s mining of open source encyclopedia-type information, the results page contains an answer in the OneBox section at the top. Gary Price at Search Engine Watch has a good initial write up on it.

For example, I typed in, “What is the population of Pittsburgh?” and Google responded with a simple reply, “Pittsburgh Population: 334,563” at the top of my results.

This Google Q&A is a great simple first step. But “question and answer” microcontent publishing still has a lot of progress to be made. And new startups will continue to make waves here as well, not just the old guard.

Most questions that people have can’t be answered with simple factual answers. Users already know where to get these – Wikipedia, dictionary.com, etc. This service just makes it easier by cutting out the middle man. Look for continuing innovation around answers that are deeper, more subtle, and opinion-based.

David Beisel

David Beisel is a co-founder and Partner at NextView Ventures. He has been focused on early stage Internet startups his entire career, both as an entrepreneur and venture capitalist. As an investor in the digital media space, David was most recently a Vice President at Venrock and previously a Principal at Masthead Venture Partners. Prior to becoming a venture capitalist, David co-founded Sombasa Media, an e-mail marketing company best known for its flagship product BargainDog. Sombasa was successfully acquired by About.com where David served as Vice President of Marketing. David holds an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and an AB in Economics, magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from Duke University. He also founded and leads the Boston Innovators Group, an organization which holds quarterly entrepreneur events drawing a thousand attendees.

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