Time was Google was just a search engine - and a very good one at that. These days however it seems as hell bent on world domination as a certain Redmond based corporation and wants fingers in everything.
In a megalomaniacal quarter which has seen the company enter the mobile phone market with Android, attack the telcos by placing a bidding on the 700MHz spectrum bid and try to undermine Facebook with OpenSocial, comes the latest target: Wikipedia.
'knol' - which stands for a unit of knowledge - will be the name given to this latest ambitious venture and its goal is to encourage people Wikipedia-style to create and edit their own content on virtually anything that comes to mind. Google will create the templates (example above) so writers just need to write and - vitally - appropriate topics will feature near the top of Google search results.
What is the differentiator? Money. Unlike Wikipedia's idyllic volunteer platform, Google will let authors choose whether they wish to place advertising in their articles and if they choose to do so they will receive a percentage of all revenue generated from visitors to it. Google will also hold authors and amenders more accountable by clearly publishing the author(s) of any article at its head plus information on contributors and let readers rank the quality of the information provided. Google hopes this eBay-like system will create a better system of self policing.
In sum, this all sounds like a reasonable proposition - as most Google ventures do - but it could equally unravel into an unholy mess should users wish to write on the same major topics (think 'iPhone' for example). Furthermore, the self interest in pushing Google ad-earning amateur content to the top of all search results may not be to the benefit of the end user - at least not in its early days.
Still, Google clearly wants to stake its claim in as many markets as it feasibly can and - looking at its rivals out there - I'm not sure there's anyone who can stop it...