Quora was co-founded by former Facebook employees Adam D'Angelo and Charlie Cheever in June 2009. In an answer to the question "How did Adam D'Angelo and Charlie Cheever come up with the name Quora?" written on Quora in 2011, Charlie Cheever stated, "We spent a few hours brainstorming and writing down all the ideas that we could think of. After consulting with friends and eliminating ones we didn't love, we narrowed it down to 5 or 6 finalists, and eventually settled on Quora." Cheever went on to state, "The closest competition that [the name] Quora had was Quiver."
Quora (/ˈkwɔːrə/) is a social question-and-answer website based in Mountain View, California. It was founded on June 25, 2009, and made available to the public on June 21, 2010. Users can collaborate by editing questions and commenting on answers that have been submitted by other users. As of 2020, the website was visited by 300 million users a month.
Quora was reviewed extensively by the media in 2010. Quora was hacked in 2018, leading to loss of information of users to hackers. According to Robert Scoble, Quora succeeded in combining attributes of Twitter and Facebook. Later, in 2011, Scoble criticized Quora for being a "horrid service for blogging" and, although a decent question and answer website, not substantially better than alternatives.
In March 2010, Quora, Inc. was valued at $86 million. Quora first became available to the public on June 21, 2010, and was praised for its interface and for the quality of the answers written by its users, many of whom were recognized as experts in their fields. Quora's user base increased quickly, and by late December 2010, the site was seeing spikes of visitors five to ten times its usual load—so much that the website initially had difficulties handling the increased traffic. Until 2018, Quora did not show ads because "...ads can often be negative for user experience. Nobody likes banner ads, ads from shady companies, or ads that are irrelevant to their needs."
In June 2011, Quora redesigned the navigation and usability of its website. Co-founder Adam D'Angelo compared the redesigned Quora to Wikipedia, and stated that the changes to the website were made on the basis of what had worked and what had not when the website had experienced unprecedented growth six months earlier. In September 2012, co-founder Charlie Cheever stepped down as co-operator of the company, taking an advisory role. The other co-founder, Adam D'Angelo, continued to maintain a high degree of control over the company.
Quora allows users to create user profiles with a name and photo, and access to edit count and other site use statistics. In August 2012, blogger Ivan Kirigin pointed out that acquaintances and followers could see his activity, including which questions he had looked at. In response, Quora stopped showing question views in feeds later that month. By default, Quora exposes its users' profiles to search engines. Users can disable this feature.
In November 2012, Quora introduced the Top Writers Program as a way to recognize individuals who had made especially valuable content contributions to the site and encourage them to continue. About 150 writers were chosen each year. Top writers were invited to occasional exclusive events and received gifts such as branded clothing items and books. The company believed that by cultivating a group of core users who were particularly invested in the site, a positive feedback loop of user engagement would be created.
In January 2013, Quora launched a blogging platform allowing users to post non-answer content. Quora launched a full-text search of questions and answers on its website on March 20, 2013, and extended the feature to mobile devices in late May 2013. It also announced in May 2013 that usage metrics had tripled relative to the same time in the prior year. In November 2013, Quora introduced a feature called Stats to allow all Quora users to see summary and detailed statistics of how many people had viewed, upvoted, and shared their questions and answers. TechCrunch reported that, although Quora had no immediate plans for monetization, they believed that search ads would likely be their eventual source of revenue.
The inconsistency of Quora moderation has been blamed for the proliferation of harmful prejudices on the website. In 2014, in addition to being privately harassed, female users noted a ubiquity of pointed, sexist questions about women with more clearly sexist question details whereas the same kinds of questions rephrased to be about men were quickly taken down. One user was subject of a sexually defamatory post containing a photo of her that was taken down by moderation only after the incident was publicized online. Racism and extreme far right viewpoints have been noted to be ubiquitous on Quora despite its policies. Some Quora users feel there has been an increase of anti-Semitism on the website, pointing to a community for Holocaust denial.
Quora was evolving into "a more organized Yahoo Answers, a classier Reddit, an opinionated Wikipedia", and became popular in tech circles. In April 2014, Quora raised $80 million from Tiger Global at a reported $900 million valuation. Quora was one of the Summer 2014 Y Combinator companies, although it was described as "the oldest Y-Combinator ever".
Users were able to add descriptions to questions. On December 8, 2015, these were limited to 300 characters, and questions themselves to 150, not affecting existing questions. On August 3, 2017, question details were discontinued entirely and replaced with an optional source URL input field to provide context, reportedly to encourage users to phrase questions more descriptively. Existing question details were stored in comments under respective questions.
In March 2016, Quora acquired the online community website Parlio.
In April 2016, Quora began a limited rollout of advertising on the site. The first ad placement that the company accepted was from Uber. Over the next few years the site began gradually to show more ads, but still maintained efforts to limit the number of ads and to keep the ads it did show relevant to the users seeing them.
In October 2016, Quora launched a Spanish version of its website to the public; in early 2017, a beta version of Quora in French was announced. In May 2017, beta versions in German and Italian were introduced. In September 2017 a beta version in Japanese was launched. In April 2018, Beta versions in Hindi, Portuguese, and Indonesian were launched. in September 2018, Quora announced that additional versions in Bengali, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish, and Dutch were planned.
On February 9, 2017, Quora announced changes to their anonymity feature, detaching anonymous questions and edits from accounts. When asking or answering anonymously, an anonymous edit link is generated, only through which the question or answer can be edited in the future. Since then, commenting anonymously and toggling one's answer between anonymous and public is no longer possible. These changes went into effect on March 20, 2017. Users were able to request a list of anonymous edit links to their existing anonymous questions and answers until then.
In April 2017, Quora claimed to have 190 million monthly unique visitors, up from 100 million a year earlier. That same month, Quora was reported to have received Series D funding with a valuation of $1.8 billion.
Quora was highly criticized for removing question details in August 2017. According to some users, the removal of question details limited the ability to submit personal questions and questions requiring code excerpts, multimedia, or complexity of any sort that could not fit into the length limit for a URL. According to an official product update announcement, the removal of question details was made to emphasize canonical questions.
By May 2019, Quora was valued at $2 billion as a company and it was finalizing a $60 million investment round, which was led by Valor Equity Partners, a private equity firm with ties to Tesla, Inc. and SpaceX. In spite of this, the site still showed very few ads compared to other sites of its kind and the company was still struggling to turn a profit, having made only $20 million in revenue in 2018. Several investors passed on the opportunity to invest in Quora, citing the company's "poor track record of actually making money." Schleifer characterized the disparity between Quora's valuation as a company and its actual profits as a result of "the high valuation for virtually everything these days in the tech sector."
In 2018, the People's Daily, the official newspaper of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, reported on successful results from coordinated use of Quora in foreign propaganda campaigns.
In September 2018, Quora reported that it was receiving 300 million unique visitors every month. Despite its large number of registered users, Quora did not possess the same level of mainstream cultural dominance as sites like Twitter, which, at the time, had roughly 326 million registered users. This may have been because a large number of registered users on the site did not use it regularly and many did not even know they had accounts since they had either created them unknowingly through other social media sites linked to Quora or created them years previously and forgotten about them. Quora uses popups and interstitials to force users to login or register before they can see more of the content, similar to a metered paywall.
In December 2018, Quora announced that approximately 100 million user accounts were affected by a data breach. The hacked information included users' names, email addresses, encrypted passwords, data from social networks like Facebook and Twitter if people had chosen to link them to their Quora accounts, questions they had asked, and answers they had written. Adam D'Angelo stated, "The overwhelming majority of the content accessed was already public on Quora, but the compromise of account and other private information is serious." Compromised information could also allow hackers to log into a Quora user's connected social media accounts, via access tokens. A class action lawsuit, case number 5:18-cv-07597-BLF, was filed in the Northern District of California, on behalf of named plaintiffs in New Jersey and Colorado by Capstone Law and Franklin D. Azar & Associates, P.C.
In December 2019, Quora announced that it would open its first international engineering office in Vancouver, which would deal with machine learning and other engineering functions. That same month, Quora launched its Arabic, Gujarati, Hebrew, Kannada, Malayalam, and Telugu versions.
In January 2020, Quora laid off an undisclosed number of employees at its San Francisco Bay Area and New York offices for financial reasons.
In June 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Adam D'Angelo announced that Quora would permanently allow for remote work.
After not selecting any 2019 or 2020 English-language Top Writers, the program was officially retired in April 2021 but will continue in other languages.