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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?

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Avatar for Abe Olandres

Abe is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of YugaTech with over 20 years of experience in the technology industry. He is one of the pioneers of blogging in the country and considered by many as the Father of Tech Blogging in the Philippines. He is also a technology consultant, a tech columnist with several national publications, resource speaker and mentor/advisor to several start-up companies.

11 Responses

  1. Avatar for Acronyms Acronyms says:

    I don’t think so. The model is wrong. Too much biased info

  2. Avatar for Caspian Graca Da Silva Caspian Graca Da Silva says:

    hey, i agree with what Eugene has already said

    “It seems to be a Mahalo-killer to me.

    My opinion is that both Knol and Wikipedia can co-exist. Besides, Wikipedians can collect the information from the Knol articles and use it to improve Wikipedia articles.”

    the only problem i see with wikipedia at the moment is that there is a lot of unconfirmed information, which isn’t always a bad thing, but sometimes people publish incorrect infomation, i think google’s plans for this opertaion is to check all information before being published, which is great, especially for people like me at college, that do a lot of research.

    so yes, if this takes off, both Knol and Wikipedia will both co-exist just fine, and i wouldn’t say this is so much of a competitive stand point for google but more of a co-opertive point.

    hope my feedback’s helped in anyway.

    see ya around, merry christmas! :D

    – Caspian Graca Da Silva

  3. Avatar for Ordnacin Ordnacin says:

    All hail Google…

  4. Avatar for annon annon says:

    Well lets hope Google only allows experts to write about things or at lest proof read everything. Google isn’t in the black because Wikipedia is useless! it’s a nice idea but anyone can edit it. So if your writing a newspaper or teaching you can’t use it unless you know the subject and can proof read it first which means you need to know the subject. So any decent school or newspaper can’t use it. It’s great if your interested in something and don’t need it to be 100% accurate but other than that useless. If they started getting experts to proof read then Wikipedia would be great but until they do that it’s not a lot of use. Who ever starts something with accurate information for free can not be the bad guy. Wikipedia could be great if they would just gets some experts to proof read things first!

  5. Avatar for Berlin Berlin says:

    one more

    Google’s OpenSocial to challenge the Facebook API -well it’s not going well either, not to mention Facebook’s traffic left Google Orkut in the dust in September.

  6. Avatar for berlin berlin says:

    Knol is a response to Wikipedia’s founder Jimbo Wale challenging Google with Search Wikia.

    Google Answer – shut down – Ask Yahoo wins
    Google Checkout – no traction – Paypal wins
    Google Finance – no traction – Yahoo Finance wins
    Google Chat – Yahoo IM rules

    Google Android – To challenge iPhone – We’ll see.

    Playing catch-up like MS is for teh lose.
    Zune 2 is sold out but it came too late in the game
    Xbox is the only thing they’ve got going.

  7. Avatar for Madeline Madeline says:

    I always hated wikipedia. Regardless if Knol is a success or not, I still think Google could replace Wikipedia with the dumbest defintions from the Urbandictionary.

  8. Avatar for Eugene Eugene says:

    It seems to be a Mahalo-killer to me.

    My opinion is that both Knol and Wikipedia can co-exist. Besides, Wikipedians can collect the information from the Knol articles and use it to improve Wikipedia articles.

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