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Have a question? Facebook may have an answer

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Facebook Inc. officially took the wraps off of its new question-and-answer feature Wednesday.

Millions of people already ask their friends questions on the site each day. This way users can get “a broader set of answers and learn valuable information from people knowledgeable on a range of topics,” Blake Ross, a director of product management at Facebook, wrote in a company blog post.

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The feature called Facebook Questions gives users a way to tap into the “collective knowledge” of more than 500 million people, Ross said.

The questions, and the answers, will be public so anyone on the Internet can see them. The only way to ask a question privately is by posing it as a status update on your profile. That openness is reminiscent of other services that let people ask and answer questions.

As we wrote earlier this week, major Internet players and start-ups are experimenting with how to quickly route people to the answers they want, some by connecting them with people with specific expertise or knowledge. Think of the effort as a way to give everyone their own personal search engine.

Facebook Questions is in beta and only available to a limited number of people. It will slowly roll out to everyone. Click on the “Ask Question” button on the homepage to ask questions or ask questions about your friends from their profiles. People can include photos or polls. They can also tag questions. Facebook will show the questions to people who are interested in related topics. Questions can be sorted by topic so you can explore areas of interest. For example, if you are taking a trip to Costa Rica, you can ask nearby surfing enthusiasts the best place to ride waves. You can also “follow” a topic to get a notification each time someone submits a new answer.

-- Jessica Guynn

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