What is a Google Knol?

Google is moving towards providing a challenge to the Wikipedia model, with user generated and edited content. Called Knol, the collaborative effort provides some added attractions not featured in the standard ‘Wikipedia’ model.

Knol (nōl) is a ‘unit of knowledge’ according to the slogan on the website. It is designed to allow contributors to impart their particular knowledge base to others using a search-able platform. However, unlike Wikipedia, the Knol system attributes any submitted articles to a particular author. This allows users to build themselves into the database as ‘experts’ on topical areas.

According to a statement released at the launch of the Knol in 2007, “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.” Each article submitted is owned by the author and each author is responsible for editing any content.

Google indexes and ranks the content submitted and hopes that the platform will increase visibility for “great content” on a variety of search engines, not just Google. Any search engine is able to index and rank the content posted to the Knol website.

While the new Knol model  has remained relatively ‘under the radar’, it does have the potential to revolutionize the manner in which knowledge is posted and distributed online. The key feature, attribution to specific authors, is a new shift in the online ‘wiki’ model.

Based on the open appeal of Wikipedia founder, Jimmy Wales, for financial support of their model, Google has an obvious long term advantage. The underlying question remains, what is the sustaining revenue model?

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