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.
At the discretion of the author, a knol may include ads. If an author chooses to include ads, Google will provide the author with substantial revenue share from the proceeds of those ads.
Still, with this move Google is clearly targeting Wikipedia (which is perhaps their biggest rival) and quite possibly is trying to ensure that Jimmy Wales' forthcoming social search engine, Wikia, is dead on arrival. Consider the timing of this announcement.
authors have earned their recognition as the most important source of knowledge, and if they choose to abandon the academic walled gardens, then Google will be one step closer to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful“.
This is Google’s direct assault at the “walled garden” of knowledge like Wikipedia, Wikia, and Squidoo. Knol will attempt to solve the problem of chaotic collective anonymous editing (and vandalizing) of wikis and its unfriendly user interface by providing a more user-friendly editing tool for knowledgeable authors “who will put their reputation on the line.”
The big distinction with Wikipedia is that Knol relies on individual authors rather than "the crowd." Each article, or "knol," will be signed and owned by the person who writes it, and articles on the same subject will compete with one another for viewer's eyes. In contrast, Wikipedia builds a single version of each article in a communal way with many edits by anonymous contributors.
Finaly, my favourite, from http://www.stoweboyd.com/message/2007/12/google-attacks.html:
There is a large web world out here, with gazillions of people -- like me -- who are disinclined to play in the Wikipedia sandpile. While I agree that things can be messy, I don't think that the messiness of our understanding of the world is an implediment to Google's idea here. All that is necessary is people willing to author snippets within knol, and for others to read and rate them. That's the core dynamic of all social media-based activities on the web. Google is the just the first to be in a position to be able to make a credible effort to blogify human knowledge, just as Wikipedia has been working to wikify it.
I vote for blogifying, instead of wikifying.
I don't know how to you feel about this, but I do think there are wikipeople and blogopeople, and if for ones wikipedia is better, for the others Knol is going to be better. I think that they'll cohexist, but in the long term I think that Knol is going to "win". Not that it matters, tho, what's important is to have more and better data, and Knol is even helping improve Wikipedia's quality on the long term. I, for one, am going to be a Knol writter for sure, and my (few) contributions to wikipedia are going to keep diminishing.