Google takes on Wikipedia with Knol – "units of knowledge"

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google_g_icon.pngWikipedia: often quoted, often defaced, often ridiculed, often found to be used as a credible source of information by major media organisations even though it contains erroneous information, and often to be found lurking at the top of Google’s search results for any given search phrase.

It seems that Google wants to dive into this world of collaboratively edited encyclopaedias with one of its own.

Currently being tested behind closed doors, with a selected group of people, “Knol” is a new service which sounds eerily like Wikipedia.

Knol stands for “a unit of knowledge” (eight out of ten for spelling, Google), and is a service “to encourage people who know a particular subject to write an authoritative article about it.”

Read on for more of Google’s vision:

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. Google will not serve as an editor in any way, and will not bless any content. All editorial responsibilities and control will rest with the authors. We hope that knols will include the opinions and points of view of the authors who will put their reputation on the line. Anyone will be free to write. For many topics, there will likely be competing knols on the same subject. Competition of ideas is a good thing.

Knols will include strong community tools. People will be able to submit comments, questions, edits, additional content, and so on. Anyone will be able to rate a knol or write a review of it. Knols will also include references and links to additional information. At the discretion of the author, a knol may include ads. If an author chooses to include ads, Google will provide the author with substantial revenue share from the proceeds of those ads.

Aha! The money. So, it’s Wikipedia with money. I wonder how much more vociferous editing will happen if one person supposedly owns each “knol” and can potentially profit from it?

As for what happens when the service opens up?

Once testing is completed, participation in knols will be completely open, and we cannot expect that all of them will be of high quality. Our job in Search Quality will be to rank the knols appropriately when they appear in Google search results.

But have no fear:

We are quite experienced with ranking web pages, and we feel confident that we will be up to the challenge. We are very excited by the potential to substantially increase the dissemination of knowledge.

Well, thank goodness for that. Google think they’re “quite experienced” with ranking web pages. Phew!

What do you think? Does the world need another Wikipedia, with Google at the helm?

(Via The Official Google Blog)

Andy Merrett