Google to divorce Wikipedia for Knol?
Since time immemorial, Google has always had a love affair with Wikipedia. Tons of Google search results has Wikipedia on top of them and it has been estimated that 96.6% of Wikipedia pages rank on Google’s first page results.
Now that’s a lot of numbers. In the US alone, 49.57% of Wikipedia traffic are coming from Google. The total number of unique visitors reported was 42,880,000.
A couple of days ago, Google announced a new web service called “Knol”.
Earlier this week, we started inviting a selected group of people to try a new, free tool that we are calling “knol”, which stands for a unit of knowledge. Our goal is to encourage people who know a particular subject to write an authoritative article about it. The tool is still in development and this is just the first phase of testing. For now, using it is by invitation only. But we wanted to share with everyone the basic premises and goals behind this project.
The key idea behind the knol project is to highlight authors. Books have authors’ names right on the cover, news articles have bylines, scientific articles always have authors — but somehow the web evolved without a strong standard to keep authors names highlighted. We believe that knowing who wrote what will significantly help users make better use of web content. At the heart, a knol is just a web page; we use the word “knol” as the name of the project and as an instance of an article interchangeably. It is well-organized, nicely presented, and has a distinct look and feel, but it is still just a web page. Google will provide easy-to-use tools for writing, editing, and so on, and it will provide free hosting of the content. Writers only need to write; we’ll do the rest.
People started referring to Knol as the Google Wikipedia, an About.com clone, a Yahoo Answers! though everyone else is looking at this as a Wikipedia-Killer. Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, replies:
Sounds more like Yahoo Answers than Wikipedia to me. It is not a collaborative tool, it is a competitive tool.
“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.”
Very different from a wiki, and not likely to generate much of quality.
Obviously, this is a competitive move by Google. Why send millions and millions of pages of traffic to Wikipedia when you can grab all the eyeballs yourself? Not a bad business idea. And they’re also planning to share revenues with authors.
But why now? Or why at all? If anybody still remembers, Google used to have Google Answers but later on closed it down because the say the idea didn’t fly. All the while, the free version Yahoo! Answers was flourishing.
So, maybe, just maybe, Google’s Knol is another attempt to monetize the knowledge-sharing community of Wikipedia (and the for-profit Wikia) by utilizing a Yahoo! Answers approach. The ball is rolling and tons of questions afloatin’ — will this affect Wikipedia’s favorable ranking in Google SERPs? Will Knol get preferential placements too? Will there be moderation and how will the rankings be determined? Will this kill Wikipedia?