Posted July 23, 2008 5:25 pm by with 14 comments

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You know how déjà vu is? I’m feeling that today, since it’s been seven months since Google Knol was announced, and they’re just now getting around to going live. And what we said at the first announcement still looks to be true: “Google Runs Out of Content to Monetize; Wants You to Build More.”

Despite obvious similarities, Google Knol will make no claims of aiming to kill Wikipedia. In case you’ve forgotten, knols are small hills which may or may not be a good place for a gunner’s nest “authoritative articles about specific topics, written by people who know about those subjects.”

It’s easy to create a knol. Here’s my attempt:
creating a knol in google knol

While Google says that the “key principle behind Knol is authorship” (hence my name and face on the knol above), I’d say that, if they’re willing to vet their authors, the real principle at work here is authority. Knol authors (whom I’m sure will have a great name soon) put their name on their content (which I have to say is very unlike putting your user name and page behind every edit you make as far as claims of authority go).

Knol authors can also verify their identities through cell phone or credit card verification, enabling Google to double check with the phone/card providers to confirm your name and address.

Google is making a marked departure from the straight-wiki model, though with what they call “moderated collaboration”:

With this feature, any reader can make suggested edits to a knol which the author may then choose to accept, reject, or modify before these contributions become visible to the public. This allows authors to accept suggestions from everyone in the world while remaining in control of their content. After all, their name is associated with it!

Which is a great structural control—but doesn’t necessarily bring any of us closer to the truth, of course. But hey, I’m okay with subjectivity as long as we’ll admit it, right?

To promote the sense of community (and sociallyness!), there will be features other than free and open editing, including comments, ratings and reviews.

Duplicate content is also not a concern for Google: “We expect that there will be multiple knols on the same subject, and we think that is good.” It’s good for Google because that means they’ll have more content, more pages in their index and possibly more places to put advertising.

But, to ask search engines’ perennial spam-defining question, is it good for users? You find six—or sixteen or sixty—pages on druidic religions—which do you read? Who do you believe when they disagree? And how do you find them and know that there are other knols on the same topic?

Google is offering Knol authors two types of “content.” The first, through a deal with the New Yorker, will be one cartoon from the New Yorker‘s cartoon database per knol.

The other “content,” naturally, will be voluntary participation in AdSense. Google has ever so generously offered to share AdSense revenue on Knol pages with Knol authors—though I’m mighty curious to know how the percentage they’ll get compares to other AdSense publishers’ cuts.

  • Well it does seem to have a different approach than Wikipedia (ie – not having a nazi-like strictness to article publishing) but you’re right – it does not mean that any of these pieces will be closer to the truth – we suppose it’s simply another social community in the works?

    Nick Stamoulis’s last blog post..You Are Now Linkedin To The New York Times

  • At HubPages we’ve been offering a very similar open publishing platform for almost two years. In that time 30,000 different authors have produced over 150,000 articles (what we call hubs). Given our success and the success of Squidoo and others, it’s no surprise that Google wants to jump into the game.

    However, we think that we are ahead of the Knol in several ways —

    1. Design & Discovery – we organize hubs around tags and topics, and have a time tested rating system called HubScore that brings the best authors and content to the top.

    2. Authoring Tools – for users that don’t know HTML we make it really easy for them to add and position videos, photos, news feeds, and products from amazon or eBay.

    3. Community – we have a large and established base of authors along with seamlessly integrated community features like forums, fan activity feeds (we call hubtivity), and requests (question and answer).

    4. Money — We give our authors a larger variety of ways to make money from their work. They can choose to run from 0 to 3 AdSense spots (automatically optimized using our YieldBuild technology). They can also augment their AdSense income with Amazon or eBay affiliate links or Kontera contextual advertising.

    I’m sure the Knol team will be working hard to add some of these things, so we’re going to have to work even harder to stay ahead of them. We welcome the competition!

  • Eduardo

    I wonder if their acquisition of Digg will add something to this as well. Seeing as Wiki is such a well rated resource it is often in the top 10 for almost any search on Google right now…Wonder how Google plans to tackle that.

  • Aaron

    It’s interesting that pretty much every link on a knol, and every link added by an author, is “nofollowed”. They trust the authority of their authors, but not the authority of their authors’ links?

    It’s hard to tell what, if any, organization the knol site will have, other than a bunch of featured knols on the main page along with a search box.

    When I signed up, the AdSense confirmation page indicates that the knol site takes 0% of the AdSense revenue earned by knol pages, so it appears that the revenue share will be roughly the same as a publisher would earn on his or her own site.

  • @Aaron you can bypass the nofollow tags by writing your own HTML and pasting it in the HTML section. At least that’s what I did, and it worked for me.

    Joe Hall’s last blog post..Top 5 National Real Estate Franchise Web Sites

  • Pingback: Reactions to Knol Launch From Around the Web()

  • a

    there is so much happening at google knol’s orkut community

  • This raises so many questions and doubts.

    If Google considered Squidoo lenses not worthy enough to be in their search results why are they setting up their own Squidoo?

    How is the content be controlled? This can quite easily become another spam haven in a similar fashion to many article direstories.

    If this happens Knols will be a backpain for both users and webmasters alike. For webmasters because it could be another Wikipedia with undisputed reserved places in the search results for most good keywords. For users because search results would have more garbage.

    Keeping a close eye!


  • I think this will become a great tool for spammers. There is no authority that defines who is an authority. Articles cannot be deleted by the community like it is possible at wikipedia. So poor content stays active.
    I see no future for this service.

  • Does this really give us something different, that isn’t out there with the likes of WordPress, Squidoo, and Wikipedia? Sounds like some engineer at Google couldn’t find enough to keep them busy, and were really good at promoting their own pet project.

    Top Rated Digital’s last blog post..What’s The Top Rated Canon Digital Camera?

  • I think it’s too early to say what Knol’s effect will be, but Knol might create communities of accredited / affiliated experts, which will also have the ability to include the ad-hoc expertise (or refreshing common sense) of anyone who wishes to comment on or add to an article.

    The content with the best headline or keenest, most relevant keywords may also rise above more authoritative content.

    I commented on the fact that only authors in the USA can currently verify their identity in Knol in my Blog at The Next Web today – and made the point that there could be a danger of spam / gaming if Google does not integrate authorship in Knol with OpenID or even Google’s offeringss like Adsense, Orkut or Google Checkout.

    I do think this is a disruptive, game-changing development, but I can see a lot of opportunities and threats for it.

    David Petherick’s last blog post..Nokia loses top executive too, Mike Baker wants to seed startups instead

  • Time for spammers to get their spam on.

    Utah SEO Pro’s last blog post..Advanced Keyword Research for SEO

  • Google knol is the “Do no evil” slap on the face and then apologize mantra being used by Google all the time.

    As if Google search does not do a good enough job searching for keyword information that it had to launch the Knol.

    It is all good. But, is it necessary?

  • The URLs make me shudder – they definitely look author centric to me rather than taking the subject as the first part of the URL. As a browser I don’t really care who wrote the article, unless I’m trying to check the authenticity.