Knol Highlights

    December 17, 2007

“Knol” stands for a unit of knowledge, according to the Official Google Blog.

Here are some highlights on Google’s new project:

The challenge posed to us was to find a way to help people share their knowledge. This is our main goal.

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. At the heart, a knol is just a web page; we use the word “knol” as the name of the project and as an instance of an article interchangeably. It is well-organized, nicely presented, and has a distinct look and feel, but it is still just a web page. Google will provide easy-to-use tools for writing, editing, and so on, and it will provide free hosting of the content. Writers only need to write; we’ll do the rest.

Google will not serve as an editor in any way, and will not bless any content.

We hope that knols will include the opinions and points of view of the authors who will put their reputation on the line. Anyone will be free to write. For many topics, there will likely be competing knols on the same subject. Competition of ideas is a good thing.

Knols will include strong community tools. People will be able to submit comments, questions, edits, additional content, and so on. Anyone will be able to rate a knol or write a review of it. Knols will also include references and links to additional information. At the discretion of the author, a knol may include ads. If an author chooses to include ads, Google will provide the author with substantial revenue share from the proceeds of those ads.

Screenshot of the new idea

Questions, comments and concerns have been visible across the blogosphere:
Danny Sullivan via Search Engine Land

My concern in hearing this was that other pages with ratings might not have their information taking in as a quality signal, since Google couldn’t as easily harvest it. Thus, Knol pages might get an unfair advantage.

Duncan Riley via Tech Crunch

Google is moving away from simply indexing the worlds content to being a content provider itself. Of course Google in response would argue that it is simply facilitating user generated content (like with Blogger), that ultimately they are the host as opposed to the creator, but it still competes with existing content providers, many of whom rely on Google search results for their living. Which takes us to question of search results.

Philipp Lenssen via Google Blogscoped

That’s partly a strawman argument – author names are included in many blog posts and news articles already today. However, if Udi is talking about Wikipedia, he may have a point.

One of the last times Google tried to unite experts around the world for a project of theirs was for Google Answers, a paid Q&A service that has been canceled in the meantime. Let’s see how “Knol” fares.

Seth Godin via personal blog

Anyway, I got back from my trip to Google and crunched some numbers and posted this good news about Squidoo. We’ve hit profitability, grown to be three to five times as big as others in our space and reached more than 125,000 users. A good day.

The very next day, Google announced Knol, a direct lift from Squidoo circa 2005. Apparently, Google wants to be in our business. It’s almost enough to ruin your day.


The bad news for all other content providers out there is that it will be increasingly difficult to get a page one result in the search engines. The more webmasters make use if sites like Wikipedia and Knol, the more will link to them and the higher authority they will get. We will soon find that most of the page one positions are taken by services like these.

Frank Watson via Search Engine Watch

Seems Google has turned its eyes on the Wikipedia space and has a spin that may get a lot of attention from knowledgeable authors.

Tamar Weinberg via Search Engine Roundtable

Well, some others are just hoping that Wikipedia stops ranking #1 for every term. Maybe there’s hope. And maybe Project Knol won’t nofollow pertinent links within the articles.

Andy Beal via Marketing Pilgrim

Well, Google’s kicked that effort up a notch with news that it will now encourage the “average joe” to create content pages, saturate the web with them, and help Google earn some extra ad revenue along the way.

With all of that, I have to say, there is a lot of speculation about the new, unreleased, uncertain product from Google that may, or may not bring Wikipedia off the first page of so many (most) SERPs. I mean it, Google hasn’t released anything yet, but many have already counting that Wikipedia, Squidoo and others will be a thing of the past?

My first question in regard to this is a simple question, but it is a question that has not been answered by anyone yet: Why would Google, with all of their different products for publishing and sharing content, bring another product, essentially a blog post, to the forefront?

I still maintain that Wikipedia is just a blog, but it is given “better than blog” status in the SERPs, but does Google really need to take a page that is from a non-expert document (Wikipedia) and replace it with another non-expert document (knol), or even worse, adding the new, non-expert page from knol to the top SERPs and littering the results space with more junk.

Recently, librarians and teachers noted that Wikipedia should not be used as a resource in research projects:

Specifically the teachers and librarians sited two arguments to the reason for limiting access to and disallow the use as a resource:

1. Errors

2. Not a Primary Resource

Will this be any different for the proposed project knol just because it is provided by Google? Highly unlikely.

They have already stated that they are not responsible for the content and will take no role as an editor, so, like blogs, it will be free reign and open competition of ideas is already accepted!

On the other hand… will the owners of have grounds to sue Google if it goes live (like Universal Tube & Rollform Equipment Corp.)?

Very interesting note: While doing research on this topic, I stumbled across the content of Google’s screenshot of knol being published on Squidoo… and the author of the lens? Seth Godin, founder of Squidoo and the one that I can see that has the most to loose if Google attempts to distribute knol. Parting shot or great sense of humor? You be the judge!