Jelly is a new mobile app from Twitter cofounder Biz Stone that turns your friends into a human search engine. The app works in quite a simple manner, you post a picture, ask a question and people answer it for you. For example you might be in a new town and see a building that you like the look of and what to know what it is, with Jelly you could take a pic and ask the question then wait for the answers to roll in. Jelly connects to your existing contacts on both Facebook and Twitter and will push your question out to these users for them to answer. Your question will also get pushed out further to friends of your friends too. You also have the option to add links to other websites within both questions and answers.
At first read you probably think that you could just Google or Bing the answer but sometimes even the world’s greatest search engines cannot answer certain questions. Here’s an example for you, you are planning a big night out on Saturday and are not sure which top to wear, you could post a pic of both tops together on Jelly with the question “Which shall I wear tonight?” and see what your friends think is best. Both questions you pose and answers you give are stored in an activity log. You can also thank people that have answered your questions. There is a maximum size of both question and answer and though I cannot tell you exactly how many characters this is there is a little circle that acts as a visual indicator of how much space you have got left. Finding the app in either the Apple app store or Google play store can be difficult and I found the best way was from the Jelly homepage.
The UI is clean and the system seems to work quite well, though I did find that it has asked me to sign in more than once and then crashed when I tried to do so. However this is a new product that has garnered an awful lot of attention so there is probably a large load on their servers and the odd bug or two to iron out.
It could be likened to a mobile version of Quora. It is certainly a lot of fun when you first download the app and start answering questions but I am not sure whether it has any long term value. Of course I am looking at it through the eyes of a 45 year old who might have more pressing things to deal with than “What is the brand name of this cup?”, “Should I put this in my mouth?” (Accompanied by a pic of an LED bulb before you ask), “Should I finish this?” (Almost empty bottle of beer), three questions that have just appeared in my Jelly feed. Jelly is a good way to kill time because of the sheer randomness of the content.
I could talk at length about how Jelly harnesses the Wisdom of Crowds but I don’t think that Jelly is really meant to take itself too seriously. Having said that Jelly is in its infancy and people are not quite sure how to use it, so you see a lot of questions that end with “Just testing Jelly”. Over time this might settle down and people may ask serious questions that they want answers to, otherwise I think the frivolousness will become irritating for a lot of users. Perhaps being able to limit who you see questions from may help. I can also see the introduction of hashtags so that you could tag the type of question that you are asking such as #fashion, #technology, #cutepets etc.
The biggest problem that I see for any social app that makes use of your contacts on Facebook or Twitter is that inevitably whatever you do in the app is something that you could almost certainly have done on either of the other social networks, in this case post a picture and ask a question about it. We all tend to be creatures of habit and we get used to certain types of behaviour, checking Facebook and Twitter for example. So we need some form of inertia to move away from the norm and try something new. I am not sure if people will start to think about Jelly as their default social media search engine when they already probably have one in either Facebook or Twitter.
My verdict? Do give it a try, I managed to spend 90 minutes answering questions this morning in what felt like 10 minutes. I don’t think Jelly is a service that I will be making much use of long term but I think it will find a niche user base in just the same way that Instagram or Vine has.