Mahalo Answers is the newest entry into the crowded Q&A reference site space, but it offers a twist that its biggest competitors don’t: the chance to earn money by contributing to the service. Mahalo founder Jason Calacanis says the new service is the third and final piece of his original vision for Mahalo, making it a site that combines search, content, and knowledge exchanges.
Yahoo Answers is the 800-lb. gorilla in this field, with some astonishing numbers reported earlier this year: 135 million users and 500 million answers worldwide, and growing at a rate of 11 million new answers per month just in the U.S.
What Calacanis hopes will set Mahalo apart is cash. Users asking a question can offer money as an incentive to attract good answers, and after the fact, other readers can also tip the best answer(er).
Mahalo Answers also brings money into the Q&A equation by giving experts the opportunity to charge money for direct questions. An SEO expert, for example, could set up shop in Mahalo Answers and charge a small sum to anyone who wants to ask a direct question.
Money was part of the now-defunct Google Answers ecosystem, which functioned very similarly to what Mahalo is doing now. The primary differences are that Google Answers required a cash payment, while it’s optional on Mahalo, and questions on Google Answers were asked to pre-screened experts, while anyone on Mahalo can answer a question.
Yahoo Answers also has an open approach with any community member being able to answer questions. But in his blog post about today’s launch, Calacanis takes a swipe at Yahoo Answers’ free-for-all approach:
“…the chance of making some money in Mahalo Answers is obviously a lot better than the guarantee of making none in Yahoo! Answers–not that I’m comparing the two products.”
But everyone else is, as evidenced by the discussion on Techmeme.