Is Quora Blocking Access by Facebook Employees?

According to a number of reports from users of Q&A startup Quora, the site is unavailable to Facebook employees who are on the corporate network (although some have been able to reach the site using non-Facebook IP addresses). At first, some users thought that this was a result of the social network blocking its staff members from using the service while at work, but several of those affected — including a number who identified themselves as Facebook engineers — said that their research indicates that Quora is blocking Facebook computers, rather than the other way around. But why would the startup do such a thing? We’ve asked Quora for comment, and will update if we get a response.

Could it be simple competitive tactics? Facebook is known to be working on a question-and-answer service that is similar to Quora, and has been asking for beta testers who want to help refine the service. However, Blake Ross — the director of product at Facebook and former lead developer at Firefox — said (in answer to a question on Quora, ironically) that the service is not designed to be a Quora competitor. Could it be that Quora disagrees, and doesn’t want to give Facebook any more help than it has already? If so, the measure seems shortsighted, since Facebook developers could easily access the site from an external IP address, such as a proxy server outside the firewall.

The Facebook ban — if there is one — also takes on an interesting flavor given that Quora, which launched in closed beta earlier this year, was co-founded by Adam D’Angelo, the former chief technology officer at Facebook, and Charles Cheever, the former head of the company’s Facebook Connect program. Could there be some tension between the Quora team and their former colleagues? There are definitely some big hopes attached to the Q&A startup: There have been several reports that the company recently raised a round of financing that gives it a valuation of over $85 million.

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