How Quora grew way beyond the tech set

Quora, the crowdsourced question-and-answer website, has come a long way in the 15 months since it launched to the public in mid-2010. What started out as a site largely centered around the tech industry has expanded its breadth dramatically. On Quora today, you can find in-depth information on everything from the Paleo diet, to what to do when you’re pulled over by the cops, to the pros and cons of letting your dog sleep in your bed.

Quora says it has fostered that growth mostly just by getting out of the way. Essentially, the site has flourished because it lets people be themselves — their whole selves. “A lot of our early users were friends of the company who live in the Bay Area or New York City, and many of them had jobs in tech. So originally people would write a lot of answers on the site about their professional lives,” Quora executive Marc Bodnick said in an interview Thursday.

But most people are interested in things other than their jobs. Once Quora’s users started discussing extracurricular topics, the site’s user base started to really expand. “When our early users started to write a lot of answers about their vocations, that in turn drew in people whose day┬ájobs were our night jobs,” Bodnick said. “What’s happened in the last 6-12 months is that our library has become amazing in so many different categories. If you’re interested in content involving sports, football, screenwriting, family, babies, you name it.”

A big reason that all these people started using Quora to discuss more non-work topics is because they felt comfortable doing so. Moderation is extremely important at Quora, and the site has a strict policy that users register with their real names and use their real identities. In short, by Internet standards, Bodnick says, Quora is an extremely civilized place. “It’s a very polite, pleasant place for strangers to interact with each other. And people really reward high quality answers.”

And now people are going to be able to pitch into Quora even more often. On Thursday Quora released its first ever native app for the iPhone and iPod touch, (s AAPL) a launch that Bodnick says is likely to be very well received by the typical on-the-go Quora user. “Having access to people’s time away from the desktop is amazing… the time when users are out and about is more flexible.” The company hopes to launch native applications for other platforms, such as the iPad and Android, down the line.

Despite all of Quora’s growth on the web, the company itself has remained fairly compact. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based startup has just 27 employees, and its last fund raise was its $11 million Series A round back in March 2010. For now, Bodnick says, the company is focused on developing its product — not on raising more cash.