Who knew a day would come when an obscure half-word such as ‘knol’ would shot into prominence so fast that in just 2 days at least 182,000 web pages would be written about it.
Thanks to Google, this is what has happened. Ever since Udi Manber, the VP Engineering of Google, announced the launch of Google Knol giving an example of Rachel Manber’s (perhaps Udi’s wife) article on Insomnia, every blog worth its salt has rushed in to cover the topic.
In the melee though there’s one thing almost all seem to be standing by, which is that Knol is Google’s attempt to break into the space of which the sole occupant is the ubiquitous Wikipedia.
The content parts of the two look uncannily same. By that I mean the main purpose of both Knol and Wikipedia does match with each other. But there are differences too. Let’s see what differs in Knol.
For one thing, going by Rachel’s article page on insomnia, an author will not likely be an unseen and unknown entity. This is very important because readers will have the chance to know how qualified the author of an article is, and what authority he or she has to guide the course of that article. Now, isn’t there a ring of transparency?
Second, Knol’s pages appear more structured. What I mean is it may be relatively easy to navigate its pages compared to Wikipedia.
It’s not that Wikipedia is any worse, but the fact is many of its pages have such bulky paragraphs that it becomes quite difficult to locate ‘exact’ information, akin to finding a needle in a haystack.
For all you know, the bulkiness may however be beyond Google’s control as well, for as Udi tells us:
Google will not serve as an editor in any way, and will not bless any content. All editorial responsibilities and control will rest with the authors.
The third point that comes to mind is that since anybody can contribute to Knol, it is a golden opportunity for talented writers and experts to come into focus that may open up great possibilities for them.
There is a small hitch however. Remember only a Google ‘account holder’ can write in Knol. A clever way to lure new users, won’t you say!
Coming to Wikipedia, I confess being an addict for even a tiny need. But unlike many others I do not rue Knol’s entry into Wikipedia’s turf for the simple reason that a bi-polar environment is always preferable than a uni-polar one.
Wikipedia does face serious and fancied contenders time to time to the crown it has monopolized. The recent example is Yahoo Answers, which many had opined will gradually eclipse Wikipedia’s prominence when it started.
In reality, the latter’s prominence only grew over time.
Will Knol be any different? This only time will tell. If it really clicks well, this may lead to another churning in the way content is made available free on the web.