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January 8, 2008

On December 13th, 2007 Google announced that they had started inviting selected individuals who are experts in their fields to contribute articles for a new knowledge base Google calls “KNOL”

What is “KNOL”?
Google describes KNOL as a unit of knowledge in their knowledge base.  “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.” Google’s Steve Manber writes. You will be able to rate and comment on knols and yes, there will be Google ads on knols and knol creators will receive a share of that ad revenue.

Take a look at an example of a knol Google revealed to give us a feel for the service.
KNOL is not live yet and Google did not specify when they are planning to go live with this service.

What does this mean?
Since the announcement there has been a slew of activity in the blogosphere.

Stowe Boyd writes that knols have the potential to add individual voices to any particular topic that Wikipedia homogenizes through its group-editing system.

Umair Haque thinks “Knol” is dead on arrival because Google, while great at creating markets, is not good at creating communities and networks.

Steve Rubel thinks this will give corporations and PR people a chance to get their views into the public in a way they can’t do on Wikipedia.

Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land, raises a couple of other challenges, including the ever-present potential for spam.

Duncan Riley at TechCrunch writes that Google is starting to create a potentially huge body of content that it will have an incentive to favor in search results over other links.

Rob Hoff from the Tech Beat asks “What’s the big deal?” and explains that there is no real threat to Wikipedia. Knol, in his opinion, can only complement Wikipedia’s content rather than be a competitor. “You go to Wikipedia precisely for the “neutral point of view” that is its stated goal (even if it doesn’t always achieve that goal). Knols are precisely the opposite: one person’s view.”

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