Google launches Knol

July 24, 2008 // 8:56 a.m.

Tags: #encyclopaedia #google #knol #wiki #wikipedia

If you thought that Wikipedia needed less Jimbo and more Google, your dreams may well have come true: the ubiquitous data hoarder has announced its own wiki-alike dubbed Knol.

Unlike Wikipedia, in which anonymous authors gather to make a page containing references to other sites around the 'net – and which can change from minute to minute, depending on the bias of the last person to edit said page – the 'knols', as the articles will be known, are aimed at having an actual named author behind each page. By introducing this accountability, and by removing the restrictions on original research present in Wikipedia and similar on-line encyclopaedias, Google hopes to create a more reliable resource.

Announced on the official Google blog yesterday, the service has now gone live. When you sign up, you can create any page you like under your name – so far, so Wikipedia-with-attribution. Where it rapidly differs is when a third party tries to edit your page: rather than the changes being made anonymously, the edits are submitted for your approval. If you disagree with the edits, you can modify them before posting or even reject them outright.

Cedric Dupont and Michael McNally at Google, both of whom demonstrated the idea of collaborative authorship by contributing to the same Google blog post, say that this system of “moderated collaboration” allows authors to “accept suggestions from everyone in the world while remaining in control of their content. After all, their name is associated with it!

It's clear to see that the Knol will appeal to many webheads the world over – all the fun of editing a Wikipedia page, but people actually get to know your name. A further method for tempting the Wikians away from the promised land is offered with optional AdSense content being added to your knol – if you tick the 'ad' box, you get a share of the proceeds.

The thrust behind Knol is pushing it in a different direction to Wikipedia – whereas the latter aims to create single pages that are authoratitive resources for a particular topic, the team see multiple knols springing up for each item of discussion. While there are arguments for both systems, the Knol way of doing things will at least make it easier to get multiple viewpoints without having to go into the editing history of a hotly-contested page.

The final, and rather bizzare, unique feature of Knol is in Google's agreement with the New Yorker magazine – anyone creating a knol has the option to add a cartoon from the magazine's archives to illustrate their point.

Do you see Knol carving a niche for itself – possibly even becoming the default homepage for lazy students the world over – or does Wikipedia have too much of a head start, even with the might of Google bearing down upon it? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

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