After giving a few days for the hype to cool down — not the hype around Dark Knight — but around Google Knol. I think I understand the business and the opportunity and the shortcomings.
In the press, they keep on equating Knol with Wikipedia, which is totally inaccurate:
- TechCrunch: Google Launches Knol, The Monetizable Wikipedia
Each article is created by a team of authors who receive attribution, and are allowed to take part in a rev-share for AdSense ads on their page.
- Google Knol Opens Its Doors, Challenges Wikipedia
Any topic can have several knols written on it, so the featured knol is based on your credentials and the authority of the article.
I personally think the comparison to Wikipedia is inaccurate, it’s really all about croud sourcing about.com. Let’s do a quick comparison:
|user contributed||only editors||yes||yes|
|easy to create||no||wiki-cabal||yes|
|multiple similar docs||yes||no||yes|
The biggest win of knol is the ability for people to create any arbitrary page about any subject — which you can’t really do in wikipedia (this isn’t a valid wikipedia page: Learning to Ski — not really about a thing). While it’s a rich topic area for about.com or for personal blogs, the addtion to knol makes it something where anybody can create a meaninful document. The downside is that if _you_ disagree with the Learning to Ski page, you have two choices:
- Contribute your edits back
- Create your own page
Now this is where the fun begins. Wikipedia promotes a model by having no personal gain to foster a community of people who create documents and improve documents. While Google Knol creates a disincentive to create better documents, while it’s possible to set up a document as a collaborative entity, if there’s ad revenue associated with a document, an above average user would be better served by creating a new document and fracturing the market to gain in $$.
The biggest problem is that right now google knol is being dominated by “doctors” creating pages on medical conditions for personal a gain. It’s still unclear if as this product matures that it’ll be a collaborate enviornment or a morass of pages and dis-connected content. Sure, there’s some star ratings to indicate the credibility of the document or author, but will this fundamentally influence the SEO bits on the page.