SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Twitter co-founder Biz Stone hopes to demonstrate that a picture can be worth even more than 140 characters of text.
That's the concept behind a smartphone application released Tuesday by Jelly Industries. Using part of the wealth he accumulated at Twitter, Stone launched Jelly nine months ago without revealing precisely what he was working on.
The intrigue is over now. Jelly's free app for iPhones and Android phones allows people to tap into the collective knowledge within their Twitter and Facebook networks to find answers about things that puzzle them. The questions are accompanied with a photo taken of an object that triggered the curiosity of the app's user.
Twitter and Facebook friends must also have the Jelly app to see the questions. But those friends can then forward the questions to others who might know the answer, even if they don't have the app.
Although Stone believes Jelly can grow into an "awesome business," Stone doubts he would have tackled the challenges of building another startup unless he believed it could help teach people that computer-driven algorithms don't necessarily have all the answers in life.
"If we are successful, then we will be introducing into the daily muscle memory of a whole lot of people this idea of, 'How can I help someone today?'" Stone said in an interview with The Associated Press. "Maybe we can sort of nudge up the global empathy quotient so people start thinking about other people a little more."
Stone, 39, can afford to gamble on a company with an altruistic bent after Twitter's successful public stock offering two months ago. Twitter's stock has more than doubled from its initial public offering price of $26. Just how many millions Stone has made from Twitter remains a mystery because he didn't own enough stock for his stake to be disclosed in regulatory filings. Stone told the AP that he still owns a substantial amount, but wouldn't say how much.
Stone left Twitter two years ago, though he says he remains a company adviser who meets at least once a week with fellow co-founders Evan Williams and Jack Dorsey to exchange ideas about the service. Some of those are passed along to Twitter Inc. CEO Dick Costolo.
"I still have my Twitter badge and my email," Stone said. "I can walk in any time I want and look at this amazingly huge company with all these people whose names I have forgotten."