Ever since Google became… well… Google, we’ve known them as the company whose goal is to index and organize information from around the world to make it more easily discoverable and accessible. Never did I think Google would be the ones providing the content, but their new tool that they are calling “knol” changes things. Knol stands for a unit of knowledge, and it will be a place where experts are invited to write articles on a subject that they’re familiar with. Google says that not everything is written nor is it easily discoverable and they feel that it’s their job to help people share their knowledge.
Knol will be a place where people can go to get and share knowledge, sound familiar? It does sound like Google is attempting to take on and compete with Wikipedia, but there are many major differences. One of the first is that Google has said that they are not taking on an editorial roll whatsoever. Some people are already predicting the downfall of Wikipedia, but I’m not ready to go that far. Knol is in the private beta stage and you can take part by invitation only. It’s too early to tell how powerful this tool will be in such early stages, but you can bet Google will do everything they can to get the experts writing so that the content can be indexed and Google can point search engine traffic to it.
On the official Google announcement, they explain that anybody will be free to write, but that there will likely be “competing knols on the same subject.” This is where it gets interesting because ad revenue will be shared with the authors of a knoll. Google says that “if an author chooses to include ads, Google will provide the author with substantial revenue share from the proceeds of those ads.” If someone writes a knol on a particular topic and they start to make money but then someone else comes along and writes something better on the same topic, the first person will start to lose ad revenue while the second person comes in and takes over.
If you take a look at the example knol below, you’ll see that they really make the author stand out. There’s a picture of them to the right with a quick blurb about what they do, and then the very first thing you see at the top of the page is the name of the author once again. Perhaps Google feels that highlighting the authors will encourage more people to participate? You’ll also notice that users will be able to review the knol and leave comments, something that Wikipedia doesn’t offer.
While it sounds like an interesting venture for Google, is anybody else noticing that Google is trying to do everything and be everywhere all at the same time? It almost seems like they are losing focus of their main goal, and it almost seems as though this project is a conflict of interest. Of course Google doesn’t want to tarnish their reputation, but if I see a knol appearing at the top of the search results I’ll likely think twice about how it landed in that spot.
Source: Google Blog