Google assassinates Wikipedia from its (grassy) Knol

The web has lit up with stories about Google’s release of its alleged Wikipedia killer, Knol, yesterday.

However, despite the numerous comparisons drawn between Knol and Wikipedia, upon investigation, it appears to me that Knol is a very different beast to Wikipedia.

To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure how to classify Knol. One can describe its features and abilities, and yet still not arrive at a correct classification because ultimately to correctly identify what Knol represents to the web world it is not so much what it can do but how it will ultimately be used which is relevant, and that is so very very much dependent on us.

Will people adopt Knol in great numbers?

Knol’s stated aim is to be a repository of authoritative articles written by users with expert knowledge in the topic.

On Wikipedia a topic is covered by one article authored and edited by numerous users. On Knol a topic can be covered by numerous articles authored by numerous different people. Although collaboration is possible on Knol, by default any edits made must be approved by the article’s owner (the person who created the article).

Wikipedia’s editors work on a purely voluntary basis and receive no remuneration whatsoever. Knol, however, has a revenue sharing model whereby a Knol user can associate their Adsense account with their Knol account and earn ad revenue from their Knol articles.

Knol also allows articles of a commercial nature to be published, for instance, covering your own business interests. Wikipedia, by contrast, strongly discourages editors from editing articles in which they have a personal interest to avoid having to deal with the conflict of interest issues that arise. Wikipedia also demands that articles meet notability requirements. Those articles which do not are deleted. Wikipedia articles also may not contain original research. Knol makes no such demand.

So, it’s clear that Knol is a very different beast to Wikipedia entirely and I therefore posit that Knol will fulfill a very different function. It will not become an encyclopedic reference that Wikipedia is.

Personally, so far Knol does not appeal to me. For starters, there’s very little content on it as yet. There’s no active community to interact with. There are also no stats associated with Knols, so I cannot even tell how many times a knol I author is viewed. I want full metrics on all Knols I author, so that I can tell whether it is worth my while expending the effort on the site.

Google now offers so many publishing tools that I’m sure some may be getting confused as to which online publishing tool is best suited to them. Google also offers personal blogs, Google Pages, and Google Sites (collaborative Wikis).

Google’s Knol Launches: Like Wikipedia, With Moderation