Jelly: Does anyone understand it?

Has the startup scene in San Francisco just gone over the proverbial hipster edge at this point? The latest effort from Biz Stone would suggest so.


Las Vegas isn't the only metropolis where major tech announcements are being made this week.

Back in the startup epicenter of San Francisco, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone and his team finally pulled back the curtain on a new project that has been shrouded in secrecy for some time now.

Say hello to Jelly.

But beyond the name and the cute logo (which coincidentally looks fairly similar to the new one recently unveiled on the revamped SmartPlanet), I was fairly speechless after reading over the introduction blog post -- twice -- on Tuesday morning.

That's because I just didn't get it.

With the tag line "Let's Help Each Other," the blog post initally summed the platform up as "kinda like using a conventional search engine in that you ask it stuff and it returns answers."

On the team page, the company founders said they based the brand on a jellyfish because "it has a loose network of nerves that act as a 'brain' similar to the way we envision loosely distributed networks of people coordinating via Jelly to help each other."

Jelly is also described as to have three key features: tie-ins for the user's existing social networks, "paying it forward" (or resting on the hope that a friend of a friend might have an answer), and being able to post questions with images. Based on the screenshots, it also looks like there is an SMS element too.


After my initial perusal of the site, the only thing I was able to glean is that this is a prettier, possibly more social version of Quora or even sites like Yahoo Answers. ZDNet's Charlie Osborne suggested to me that it could be construed as a hyper-local version of Google, at least to some degree.

Thus, I pinged the Jelly team on Tuesday morning to see if I could get some more answers and clarification beyond what was available on the website.

Jelly hasn't offered any response yet.

Still, I have the nagging suspicion, maybe even fear for the sake of the employees at Jelly, that this might be another case of a hyped-up social media product from a well-established tech entrepreneur with a huge hit already behind him.

For further evidence, just look at Napster co-founder and Facebook's first president Sean Parker and that turbulent Airtime debut back in 2012.

Before I get a bunch of angry emails, comments and Tweets (which will happen regardless, I know), I want to make it clear that I'm not an automatic naysayer when it comes to new social media products.

For reference I signed up for Twitter back in early 2008, immediately defending the purpose and use of it to many friends and former graduate school colleagues -- many of whom all use the micro-blogging service very actively now. I've also been a big fan of Pinterest since word of mouth about the digital scrapbooking site spread like wildfire in 2011.

(I'll admit that it took me a full year after first hearing about Facebook in 2004 to sign up as I was still attached to Friendster at the time, but hey, we all make mistakes.)

But this one still stumps me, much like how Path did -- and look at the way that social network is going. The Path concept even at least makes sense for people who really want to keep a lid on the things they share. But in this day and digital age, that thought process doesn't apply to a lot of people beyond celebrities and other public figures who might want to shun Facebook for something more secretive.

Nevertheless, this won't stop me from at least trying out Jelly. I did the same with Vine, which also made sense up front without much explanation -- although I'll admit I dropped that one like a hot potato as soon as Instagram added video to its repertoire .

To get started with Jelly, I'll have to think of a question first. But off the top of my head, I think my first question is going to be if anyone understands Jelly in the first place.

Jelly is available for free now on iOS and Android devices.

Screenshots via Jelly