When we first wrote about Knol, Google's online knowledge management service, there didn't seem to be much interest in it. After all, Google's forte is search, is it not? Now that Knol has been released to the general masses, popular opinion is everywhere about the service -- good and controversial.
What is Knol Again?
Knol -- unit of knowledge -- is an online tool that enables anyone who thinks they are an expert on some topic to share their knowledge with the world. Knols will cover all sorts of topics: technology, science, medicine, how-tos, history, entertainment - you name it. You can even write about toilet repair -- quite a mixed bag of knols.
It is similar to Wikipedia except that Google will not provide editorial support. A knol is essentially a web page used by an author with additional community tools such as like comments, questions, edits, ratings, reviews, references and links to additional information.
So what's the big interest now that it's officially open to the public?
Is Knol the end of Wikipedia?
According to Christopher Dawson over at ZDNet it is. He says, "while it can’t yet match the volume of articles on Wikipedia, its focus on accountability and ownership makes it a better choice for students and teachers."
He says that one of the advantages to Google Knol over Wikipedia is that Knol is not anonymous: "... removes contributors anonymity and gives students the ability to verify sources of information." So from an education and research perspective it may become the better answer in time -- when it builds up enough content.
In a review on the ReadWriteWeb, it's stated that Google isn't trying to go after Wikipedia. Frederic Lardinois thinks they might be on target if they are though. "By incentivizing authors through AdSense and by giving its users simple, but powerful tools to start their articles, Google might just be on the right track."
Is Knol a New Wave of Content Management?
Mahalo founder Jason Calacanis seems to think Google has gotten itself into the content business despite their claims to the contrary. In a recent post he talks about Knol and what it means to be a publisher, giving a strong opinion that Google has indeed gotten itself into the content business. "Google believes because they don't own the content that they are not in the content business. Nice try, but no, that's not how it works. If you pay writers, distribute their work, and create a library of their work you are--in no uncertain terms--a publisher."
What people are saying is that Google needs to be careful with Knol content, ensuring that it does not drive this content to the top of their search engine results.
Knol may interest you as a writer because you can make money from the AdSense advertising used. It may interest you as a research tool. In any case, it does seem apparent that Google enjoys making waves and will continue to do so. Time will tell if Knol really takes off, but with all Google services, it's probably only a matter of time before it does.