Will Google's Knol be a force for evil?

Google's new online encylopedia, Knol

If you missed the recent news it appears that Google has gone, in effect, head to head with Wikipedia, but with differences.

These differences are that Google's new online encyclopedia, called KnolGoogle Knol (derived from the phrase "unit of knowledge"), has a focus on authorship (Wikipedia articles are not credited to individuals) and frames the articles with Adsense advertisements thus "monetizing" the service. Moreover authors will get a cut of the revenue.

You can find the blog post by Udi Manber, Google's VP of Engineering, that announced the general availability of Knol here.

The logic behind Google's move is obvious: With Wikipedia having become the pageview generating monster that it is (about 5 per cent of search results link to its articles), and with its grass roots consensus style authorship, the opportunity to create a commercial version of the concept that gives authors ownership and revenue for their work is commercially compelling.

The way editing Knol articles works is, by default, "authorized collaboration" where an author submits an article and anyone can suggest changes, but only the original author can allow those changes to be made. The alternative is "straight collaboration" where a lead author starts an article and specifically invites other people to edit the piece with the same rights she has.

Authors can choose to license their contributions under the Creative Commons Attribution License (the default), the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial License, or an "All Rights Reserved" license.

All of the WYSIWYG editing tools are built-in to the Knol user interface, and by some strange marketing quirk even though you can't yet add images or videos to articles (an incredible omission!) you can add cartoons from the archives of The New Yorker!, I find that seriously weird.

Users can search Knol's content directly and as the articles are indexed along with the rest of the Internet, Knol content will turn up in general Google searches. Beyond searching Knol's content, users can also write reviews of articles and rate them.

This brings up the question of whether Google will show favoritism for its own content over Wikipedia or for that matter over any other knowledge repository. It's very early to try to analyze this and the answer is anything but clear so far. You can bet we'll all be watching very closely for indications of evil bias.

So what does Knol mean for the future of Wikipedia? Quite obviously the opportunity for writers to get paid for what they contribute to Knol, that they would otherwise contribute to Wikipedia for free, is going to have an effect.

Knol may also create problems for itself due to Google's page ranking. This will be because highly rated early articles will get more links and therefore higher page ranks. When later and possibly more up to date and or accurate articles are added it will be hard for them to get attention due to the "momentum" of existing related content.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Mark Gibbs

Network World
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?