Watch out Wikipedia. Google is targeting your space.
On Wednesday Google took the lid off a new product called Knol. The search-engine giant first announced it was testing the product in December. Knols are authoritative articles about specific topics, written by people who know about those subjects.
"The Web contains vast amounts of information, but not everything worth knowing is on the Web. An enormous amount of information resides in people's heads: Millions of people know useful things and billions more could benefit from that knowledge. Knol will encourage these people to contribute their knowledge online and make it accessible to everyone," Google product manager Cedric Dupont and Google software engineer Michael McNally wrote on the corporate blog.
Moderated Expert Collaboration
As Dupont and McNally explain it, the key principle behind Knol is authorship. Every knol will have an author (or group of authors) to put a name or names behind content and opinions. Google expects there will be multiple knols on the same subject.
"With Knol, we are introducing a new method for authors to work together that we call moderated collaboration," Dupont and McNally wrote. "With this feature, any reader can make suggested edits to a knol which the author may then choose to accept, reject or modify before these contributions become visible to the public. This allows authors to accept suggestions from everyone in the world while remaining in control of their content. After all, their name is associated with it!"
Knol includes community tools for interaction between readers and authors. People can submit comments, rate or write a review of a knol. At the discretion of the author, a knol may include ads from Google's AdSense program. If an author chooses to include ads, Google will provide the author with a revenue share.
Google also announced an agreement with the New Yorker magazine to allow any author to add one cartoon per knol from the New Yorker's extensive cartoon repository. Experts can access the new site at knol.google.com.
A Threat To Wikipedia?
Knol is a potentially valuable property, according to Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence. But that potential, he said, depends on the content. It could take years for Knol to build the volume of content Wikipedia boasts, and the nature of the site -- relying on named authors -- could slow the content-generation process. That means Knol is not an immediate threat to Wikipedia, Sterling said.
"The difference between Knol and Wikipedia is that Wikipedia is edited by a group of people, a community or a select number of editors, and this has a single author," Sterling explained. "An individual expert or author is the source of the information, or at least has the byline."
Knol, then, offers pros and cons for its readers. The benefits, Sterling said, might be more authoritative or reliable content. The downside may be people motivated to write pieces as a promotional vehicle for books or other products.
"Maybe there's a subject like heart disease and both Wikipedia and Knol have articles. Both articles would both show up in search results," Sterling said. "People could look at them both and make their own determination."