The Dark Fiber of Knowledge


One item worth considering related to the opportunity Quora is creating for itself is drawn from the principle of “The Long Tail,” often-cited and popularized by Wired’s Chris Anderson. The argument is Quora is “niche” and will need to go “mainstream” in order to be a success. I believe that argument is flawed, because it doesn’t need to be mainstream in order to be considered a success and because the right-hand side of the curve is a valuable space. I won’t recycle the arguments entirely here, but rather share a few thoughts:

  1. Adam Singer has written an interesting piece on whether Quora is a long-tail play (link).
  2. The Long-Tail is an expression of a power law in statistics. At a certain point in the middle, if it’s chopped up, the left hand side, which includes things that are popular and/or “mainstream” actually equals the right-hand side or “niche” areas in terms of volume.
  3. There is ample room in search for players on each side of the power distribution, but the left-hand side is very competitive and suffers from high fixed-costs.
  4. Finally, the area that Quora and others play in is asymptotic with the X-axis, and creates what I’ve heard described as the “dark fiber of knowledge,” those random tidbits of trivia that lurk in the shadows and has a separate value all to itself.

Here are some other images on the same principle: