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China Daily | Updated: 2018-07-21 05:56

How popular Q&A website Zhihu has become the Quora of China

If you have a burning question of an intellectual nature, where do you turn for help? Traditionally, you might have consulted some smart friends or a mentor, or headed to the library for some solid fact-checking. Nowadays, of course, most people just prefer to ask online.

In 2008, the chief technology officer of Facebook, Adam D'Angelo, quit his job to ultimately start Quora, a question-and-answer site where users can create and respond to questions upon registering with their real names - a strategy aimed at differentiating from other Q&A sites and increasing credibility for a multitude of answer-seekers.

Quora began by gathering some of the brightest brains, including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who asked a question in 2010: "What startups would be good talent acquisitions for Facebook?"

Soon after, Zuckerberg acquired social travel recommendation site Nextstop, one of the companies suggested by a user. Quora claims to have 200 million unique visitors monthly, as answered by D'Angelo in a question asked on his own site.

In 2010, after a failed attempt at developing a search engine marketing tool, Chinese software engineer Zhou Yuan began his second startup venture: Zhihu, a high-quality Q&A website for the Chinese community. He was certainly inspired by Quora, a platform that he felt "connected the dots" but wasn't available in the Chinese language.

Like D'Angelo, Zhou is also a famous user of his own site, with approximately 880,000 followers. Following Zhihu's launch, the knowledge-sharing platform received investments in 2011 from top Chinese angel investors including ZhenFund founder Bob Xu and venture capitalist and tech entrepreneur Mike Cai.

The tagline of Zhihu is "Discover a bigger world"; the name actually comes from classical Chinese language, meaning "Do you know?" To accumulate a base of high-quality users in China, Zhihu adopted an invitation-only registration system in the beginning - this required a referral from an existing user, otherwise one had to apply to join by filling out a good deal of personal information. When open registration started in 2013, the number of users soared tenfold within a year.

According to a 2015 report from Zhihu, 87 percent of its users have a bachelor's degree or above - that same year, the percentage for all internet users in China was 11.2 percent. In 2017, Zhihu had more than 100 million registered users and 780 million unique monthly visitors, the latter figure far surpassing Quora.

Recognized for its signature skyblue color, the site and the two Zhihu apps have become a popular destination for Chinese-language internet users to make enquiries for expert insights, to share knowledge or to simply get a different point of view. Other services such as livestreamed talks and e-books are also available. Zhihu Weekly, a free digital publication released every Thursday since 2013, has covered nearly 200 intriguing topics, including sleep science, Chinese rock 'n' roll development, Japanese decluttering skills, family psychology and a survival guide for smoggy days.

As follows are some of the questions on Zhihu with an answer that attained a high number of likes (more than 50,000).

What are some important qualities that can't be learned from books?

The top answer has 174,000 likes. The answerer suggests a few things, including "expectation management in interpersonal relationships", "awareness to self-regulate thresholds" and the "ability to manage time meaningfully by stepping out of one's comfort zone".

What are some basic but useful cooking tips?

Top answer: 143,000 likes. The answerer gave a list of tips, including "not adding salt too early for stirred vegetables"; "adding a tomato or potato when making a soup, which can bring out a savory flavor"; and "marinating white rice with a little bit of salt and oil before making rice porridge, then putting two porcelain spoons in the cooker, which can spiral in the boiling process and grind the rice better".

What are some high-IQ-required thriller movies?

Top answer: 98,000 likes. The answerer first clarified that the definition of "high IQ" is subjective, then suggested some films including Witness for the Prosecution, The Usual Suspects and Perfect Blue.

What is love? What's it like to be falling in love?

Top answer: 57,000 likes. The answerer said: "Like suddenly you have a soft spot and also a hard shell."

What are your special laws of survival?

Top answer: 59,000 likes. The answerer gave a list, including "thinking of having a win-win with anyone", "not jumping into heart-to-heart talks with minor acquaintances", and "not announcing your ambition before it achieves progressive results".


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