Is the Jelly Search Engine a More Human Approach?

September 23, 2016 • Devin Partida



Start typing a phrase into Google and you’ll see suggested ways to complete your query. The suggestions are based on popular past searches by other people.

For example, the partial phrase “What is the meaning of…” might generate phrase suggestions like “of life, “of my name,” and “of love,” depending on your location or demographic data.

Jelly is a relaunched search engine partially based on that concept. Generated search results come from the questions actual people ask.

Several companies sprang up over the years attempting to do the same thing. Cha Cha, Yahoo Answers and are just a few of the companies that tried to bring a more humanized aspect to online searches. Because real people give responses, the hope is that answers are more accurate than they might be if driven by algorithms alone.

Jelly 2.0

Jelly came on the scene in 2014. But like most of the companies mentioned above, it failed to gain enough traction to succeed in the marketplace. However, now it’s back. Described as “humanity presented as software,” Jelly began as an app. It’s now a search engine backed by Biz Stone, the cofounder of Twitter.

What We Know So Far

According to an interview conducted at SXSW earlier this year, the new version of Jelly is superior to the old for at least a couple compelling reasons. Unlike before, search queries don’t have names attached to them. The anonymous nature eliminates embarrassment people experience while asking sensitive or revealing questions.

Also Jelly sends queries to users believed to have expertise on certain topics. In theory, this not only improves accuracy, but it also helps people get the answers they need faster. For example, if you have a question related to horse racing, Jelly might route it to an expert who lives in Kentucky and has a solid record of experience in that industry.

The Perks of Using Jelly

Jelly allows you to set parameters for queries by adding up to three additional details about your main question. You might ask, “What’s the best music venue in Colorado?” and then clarify, “must be open to eighteen-year-olds, “not interested in blues music” and “not located in Boulder” to get the most relevant answers.

Also, once someone tackles your question, you can immediately see the number of helpful answers the respondent has written already. You can then gauge the person’s authority, or lack thereof. Often, an individual who has only typed three helpful answers might not be as reliable as someone who’s offered 33.

Jelly supporters say the service gives people their time back by letting them avoid wasting time searching through hundreds of millions of search results. It does all the hard work so you can turn back to your busy life.

Possible Disadvantages

Although he has a positive mindset, Biz Stone admits there are potential downsides to relaunching his project as a search engine. The concept may not work, even with its new format. Jelly thrives when people help each other find accurate information, but what happens if it turns out there aren’t enough knowledge gurus willing to share what they know?

Also, you can ask questions without signing up for an account, but answering them requires signing up for an account and filling out a profile to indicate areas of expertise. Over time, we’ll learn whether people are willing to go through the sign-up process and answer questions. If they aren’t, we’ll likely see a surplus of questions but not enough answers, meaning the whole process takes too much time.

Jelly only works on iOS and within web browsers. There’s no official word on an Android version yet, so if you’re wedded to that operating system, Jelly isn’t an ideal solution just yet.

Regardless of whether Jelly gains the momentum it needs to reshape perceptions of what it means to search for things online, it certainly presents an intriguing concept. User adoption levels should quickly indicate whether people are ready to embrace this idea and contribute their knowledge or simply just stick with more familiar, less human search methods.

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