Thursday, July 24, 2008

Google launches Knol - a Wiki with bylines

Google has just launched Knol (which was announced in December), their new author driven knowledge project that appears to be a direct response to services like Wikipedia and Mahalo. Its an exciting new project which they call a “Knowledge Portal,” hence the codename Knol. Its a place where people can share and collaborate on authoritative articles focusing on their areas of expertise. Knol allows people to write about their areas of expertise under their bylines in a twist on encyclopaedia Wikipedia, which allows anonymity.

Its like an alternative to Wikipedia. Each article is created by a team of authors who receive attribution. The big news here is that by assigning ownership and allowing authors to include AdSense ads on their articles, Google is effectively offering a monetary incentive to create good content. In theory, the best articles will get the most attention, and in turn the most revenue.

Knols include strong community tools which allow for many modes of interaction between readers and authors. Other users can submit changes in the article, but they are not displayed until they are moderated by article’s original authors. This allows authors to accept suggestions from everyone in the world while remaining in control of their content. So it’s more like a moderated Wikipedia.
What Google says about Knol :-

We are deeply convinced that authorship, knowing who wrote what, helps readers trust the content. The name of the service is a play on an individual unit of knowledge and entries on the public website,, are called "knols", said Cedric DuPont, product manager for Knol.

The key principle behind Knol is authorship. Every knol will have an author (or group of authors) who put their name behind their content. It’s their knol, their voice, their opinion. We expect that there will be multiple knols on the same subject, and we think that is good. 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.

As explained by Google in their official Knol site :-
  • The Knol site has one goal: to help you share what you know.

    The Knol project is a site that hosts many knols — units of knowledge — written about various subjects. The authors of the knols can take credit for their writing, provide credentials, and elicit peer reviews and comments. Users can provide feedback, comments, related information. So the Knol project is a platform for sharing information, with multiple cues that help you evaluate the quality and veracity of information.

    Knols are indexed by the big search engines, of course. And well-written knols become popular the same as regular web pages. The Knol site allows anyone to write and manage knols through a browser on any computer.

  • What subjects can users write on?

    (Almost) anything you like. You pick the subject and write it the way you see fit. We don't edit knols nor do we try to enforce any particular viewpoint – your knol should be written as you want it to be written. Of course, Knols are
    subject to Terms of Service and Content Policy to ensure a good experience for all users and compliance with applicable laws.

  • What if someone else has already written an article on that subject?

    No problem, you can still write your own article. In fact, the Knol project is a forum for encouraging individual voices and perspectives on topics. As mentioned, no one else can edit your knol (unless you permit it) or mandate how you write about a topic. If you do a search on a topic, you may very well see more than one knol in the search results. Of course, people are free to disagree with you, to write their own knols, to post comments and ratings.

  • Can users collaborate with other authors?

    Of course. For each knol you can choose to write on your own or collaborate with other authors.

  • Can users search for knols on a specific subject?

    Yes, you can search on Google or other search engines to find knols, like any other web pages. You can also use the Search button found on the Knol homepage and each knols to search.

The interface of Knol is based on the increasingly ubiquitous Google Docs rich text editor and it’s pretty spiffy. Knol also creates a page for each author and it makes it part of the Knol universe, thus giving people more recognition.

Knol is playing catch-up against a more established brand - Wikipiedia. It has been rumored that Google is upset about Wikipedia dominating it’s search results and therefore released this open-author information sharing website to compete for some top results. Though Wikipedia has a fore over Knol, it can still be bypassed. Google can use its power as the leading traffic supplier on the Internet and to promote Knol by placing its articles in front of others in the search results. Though, as of now Knol is mostly about medical and health articles. Let’s see if this will sustain its momentum.

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