Jelly, Biz Stone's new startup, is finally revealed

Steven Loeb · January 7, 2014 · Short URL:

Jelly is a question and answer site that uses mobile photos and social connections for queries

There has been a ton of mystery surrounding Jelly, the new startup from Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, ever since he first announced its creation back in April of last year. The idea got a lot of interest from a lot of big names, but Stone still remained remarkably cagey about what it actually was.

Now, finally, Jelly is here and we can finally, after all this time, find out what it is.

So, are you ready ? Drum roll, please. Jelly is... a question and answer site.

Now that may not sound too exciting, but there is a twist: it is a q&a site that uses newer types of technology, namely pictures taken via a mobile device and social network connections, to get those answers.

"Using Jelly is kinda like using a conventional search engine in that you ask it stuff and it returns answers. But, that’s where the similarities end," Stone wrote in a blog post.

Here's how it works: users take a picture, then put it on Jelly. It will be submitted to social connections on Twitter and Facebook who also have the Jelly app.

Because those people might now have all of the answers, they can then forward the question to people outside of the app as well, in order to get the right information.

"Jelly changes how we find answers because it uses pictures and people in our social networks. It turns out that getting answers from people is very different from retrieving information with algorithms. Also, it has the added benefit of being fun," said Stone. 

The most innovative aspect of the idea is using pictures, to get answers to questions, which takes advantage of the rise of image sharing apps that have popped up in just the last few years.

"In a world where 140 characters is considered a maximum length, a picture really is worth a thousand words," Stone said. "Images are in the foreground of the Jelly experience because they add depth and context to any question. You can crop, reframe, zoom, and draw on your images to get more specific."

A bit more about Jelly

Before today, few people had any idea what Jelly was. But that did not mean that there was no news coming out about the company.

In May, the company raised an undisclosed amount of money in a round led by Spark Capital with additional investment by SV Angel.

In addition to the two investors, Jelly also received funding from a group of high profile individual investor: Square CEO Jack Dorsey; U2 frontman Bono; Reid Hoffman, with the Greylock Discovery Fund; Stone's Twitter co-founder Evan Williams and Jason Goldman via Obvious; former Vice President Al Gore; Emmy winning director Greg Yaitanes; author and entrepreneur Steven Johnson; and Afghan entrepreneur and businesswoman Roya Mahboob.

The company also made a series of high profile hires.

They included engineer Austin Sarner, who helped develop Push Pop Press before it was sold to Facebook; and the Head of Twitter's recently released #Music app Kevin Thau.

In June alone, Jelly added four new people: Camille Hart, former the EA to the COO of Facebook, as the new Chief of Staff; Alexa Grafera, former illustrator for the hit iPhone game, “Heads Up!", as a designer; Loren Brichter, an engineer at Apple who worked on the original iPhone and maker of Letterpress, as the first member of Jelly’s Executive Advisory Board; and Luke St. Clair, former Android Developer at Facebook, as a software developer,

Jelly was co-founded by Ben Finkel, who also co-founded Q&A service Fluther, where Stone had been an advisor. The startup was eventually acquired by Twitter and Finkel is now Jelly's CTO.

Check out the video below for a demonstration of how Jelly works:


(Image source:

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What is Twitter?

Twitter is an online information network that allows anyone with an account to post 140 character messages, called tweets. It is free to sign up. Users then follow other accounts which they are interested in, and view the tweets of everyone they follow in their "timeline." Most Twitter accounts are public, where one does not need to approve a request to follow, or need to follow back. This makes Twitter a powerful "one to many" broadcast platform where individuals, companies or organizations can reach millions of followers with a single message. Twitter is accessible from, our mobile website, SMS, our mobile apps for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, our iPad application, or 3rd party clients built by outside developers using our API. Twitter accounts can also be private, where the owner must approve follower requests. 

Where did the idea for Twitter come from?

Twitter started as an internal project within the podcasting company Odeo. Jack Dorsey, and engineer, had long been interested in status updates. Jack developed the idea, along with Biz Stone, and the first prototype was built in two weeks in March 2006 and launched publicly in August of 2006. The service grew popular very quickly and it soon made sense for Twitter to move outside of Odea. In May 2007, Twitter Inc was founded.

How is Twitter built?

Our engineering team works with a web application framework called Ruby on Rails. We all work on Apple computers except for testing purposes. 

We built Twitter using Ruby on Rails because it allows us to work quickly and easily--our team likes to deploy features and changes multiple times per day. Rails provides skeleton code frameworks so we don't have to re-invent the wheel every time we want to add something simple like a sign in form or a picture upload feature.

How do you make money from Twitter?

There are a few ways that Twitter makes money. We have licensing deals in place with Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft's Bing to give them access to the "firehose" - a stream of tweets so that they can more easily incorporate those tweets into their search results.

In Summer 2010, we launched our Promoted Tweets product. Promoted Tweets are a special kind of tweet which appear at the top of search results within, if a company has bid on that keyword. Unlike search results in search engines, Promoted Tweets are normal tweets from a business, so they are as interactive as any other tweet - you can @reply, favorite or retweet a Promoted Tweet. 

At the same time, we launched Promoted Trends, where companies can place a trend (clearly marked Promoted) within Twitter's Trending Topics. These are especially effective for upcoming launches, like a movie or album release.

Lastly, we started a Twitter account called @earlybird where we partner with other companies to provide users with a special, short-term deal. For example, we partnered with Virgin America for a special day of fares on that were only accessible through the link in the @earlybird tweet.


What's next for Twitter?

We continue to focus on building a product that provides value for users. 

We're building Twitter, Inc into a successful, revenue-generating company that attracts world-class talent with an inspiring culture and attitude towards doing business.


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