Sunday, December 16, 2007
Google is launching a new online tool, Google Knol. In a recent post on the Google's official blog, Google unveiled "knol" defining it as a unit of knowledge. As per Google, knol aims for encouraging people to contribute knowledge. The tool is currently in its development phase and only a few invited people are trying it.
The new Google tool seems to be Google's version of Wikipedia, the most popular online reference work. The blog post says,
"A knol on a particular topic is meant to be the first thing someone who searches for this topic for the first time will want to read. The goal is for knols to cover all topics, from scientific concepts, to medical information, from geographical and historical, to entertainment, from product information, to how-to-fix-it instructions."
This is what attracts people to Wikipedia. No doubt Google noticed the high search ranking of Wikipedia on its search reults and created its own edition of Wikipedia. It may be seen as Google's answer to Wikia, which recently launched a rival search engine (Wikia is a for-profit organization of Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia's founder). It also clears doubts about possible cooperation between the two companies for higher rankings of the Wikipedia articles.
Google Knol, ofcourse, features some differences to make it distinct from Wikipedia. The tool is aimed to provide recognition for authors of the content, which is contrary to the anonymous content model followed by Wikipedia. It would be possible to have multiple articles (or knols) on the same topic from different authors. People will be able to submit comments, questions, edits, additional content, and so on.
Authors could also earn revenue from their knols by adding Google ads. This would definitely give some people a reason to write. But, this may result in spammers creating their knols about popular topics to drive in traffic. Unless, Google enforces a strong spam protection policy for the knols, these posts could become a big problem on the Knol network.
Google Knol appears to be a one big tool, aggregating the features of Wikipedia, Blogger and Yahoo Answers. The basic concept of having content on every topic and the editing capabilities are similar to that of Wikipedia. The idea of providing identity for the authors and enabling advertisements are analogous to that of Blogger. Yahoo Answers' ability to ask questions, provide answers and rate those answers are also embedded in Knol.
It would definitely be a difficult job for Google to beat the popularity of Wikipedia. Wikipedia has an well established base of people who start their topic search at Wikipedia and not at Google. Knol will create a new war of content on the internet and it would be interesting to see these big players vying for traffic.