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."
The company was founded in June 2009, and the website was made available to the public on June 21, 2010. Users can collaborate by editing questions and suggesting edits to answers that have been submitted by other users.
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 in 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 visible real names, photos, site use statistics, etc., which users can set to private. 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, including their real names, 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.
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".
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.
Quora World Meetup started in 2017 as a tradition for Quora readers and writers to interact and network. Quora World Meetups are organized by a group of Quora contributors with a designated lead and as a contribution from Quora they usually send branded swag and stickers to the attendees. According to Quora, they defined the World Meetups as "This is our way of celebrating the global growth of Quora, and all of the readers and writers who have made it possible." The 2017 meetup had nearly 2,000 writers from over cities. The 2018 World Meetups occurred from June 20 to June 25.
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 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 only made $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 April 2018, Quora introduced a program that offers incentives to users that ask questions. Members of the program, who are chosen by invitation only, are paid via Stripe or PayPal, based on user engagement and advertising revenue generated by the questions. According to the Partner Program FAQ, "Questions are compensated based on the user engagement and advertising revenue they generate. After you ask a question, you will earn money on it for 1 year."
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 November 2018, Quora ended support of user blogs and introduced a new feature called "Spaces". Spaces are communities of like-minded people where users can discuss and share content related to the space topic or subject.
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."
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 2020, the website was visited by 300 million unique people a month.
On January 1, 2020, a retired Palestinian American professor, Rima Najjar Merriman, filed a lawsuit against Quora at the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. Her lawsuit alleged that she had been wrongfully banned from the question and answers website and accused of posting hate speech for her pro-Palestinian and anti-Zionist views. On March 23, 2020, Merriman filed for a voluntary dismissal of her lawsuit against Quora without admitting guilt. Her lawyers cited as a reason for the withdrawal recent court rulings "that immunize tech companies for acts of censorship and discrimination, whether or not those activities constitute unlawful discrimination or the restriction of legitimate speech...Specifically, the Communications Decency Act (“CDA”) has been interpreted by recent cases in the Northern District of California to trump federal civil rights statutes as well as UNRUH's protections against discrimination on the basis of political opinion."
In June 2020 Quora announced that space owners in several eligible countries will be able to receive a share of income from ads shown in their spaces.
In June 2020, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and employee response to work-from-home during shelter-in-place, Adam D'Angelo announced that Quora would become "remote first", meaning that most employees would not have to come into the office once shelter-in-place ended.