Google Throws the Knol Gauntlet at Wikipedia

Google is challenging the popular Wikipedia information web site with a new project called Knol that gives the popular search engine a reach into the content domain.

Describing Knol in his blog post, Google’s VP of Engineering Udi Manber wrote:

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….For many topics, there will likely be competing knols on the same subject.

Besides being the name of the project, knol also represents a web page on a topic.

While Wikipedia is a collaborative initiative with contribution from volunteers from around the world, a knol is expected to be the output of a single author.

The authors of the knols are supposed to have editorial control over their content unlike in Wikipedia where anyone can edit the content. But outsiders can submit comments, questions and edits to the authors of knols.

Google said it would let authors of knols decide if they want to include ads on their pages. Should the authors decide to have ads on their knols, Google intends to share revenues from the ads with them.

Wikipedia does not contain commercial ads.

The key question now is how Google will rank knols in its search results. Some may fear that knols will appear higher in Google’s search results.

In a bid to allay such concerns, Google is promising that it will rank knols ‘appropriately’ in its search results. Manber wrote:

We are quite experienced with ranking web pages, and we feel confident that we will be up to the challenge.

Knol is currently in early stage of testing with participation by invitation only.

Covering a vast array of subjects including Indian favorites like Bollywood and Kollywood,  Wikipedia has grown in popularity over the last few years.

A cornucopia of information on diverse topics, the multilingual Wikipedia, which is managed by a non-profit foundation, has 2.1 million articles in English alone.

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