Google Launches Its Paid Wikipedia Rival

Good competition or missing the point?

All had gone so quiet with ‘Knol’, Google’s (potentially) paid Wikipedia rival, since it was first announced in December that I was beginning to think it dead in the water. Not so, with a Darwin-esque resurrection the site is now officially live!

Meaning ‘a unit of knowledge’, the key principle behind Knol is authorship. Each knol has its own author (or group of authors) which put their name, and in many cases picture, to their content. Deemed experts in their field, the authors can also choose to include ads from Google Adsense which will earn them money from each page view.

As for edits, Google is employing a system of “moderated collaboration” where readers can suggest edits but they will only become visible to the public if the author(s) of the knol accepts it. Get in first authoring a topic (and it is seriously lacking outside medical topics right now) and you’re king then…

Of course this is a radically different (and certainly more capitalist) approach to the hippy vision of Wikipedia. On the one hand it is likely to reduce the amount of rubbish scribbled onto the site, but on the other it takes away much of the democracy and will certainly be a controversial system depending on an author’s standpoint on more taboo topics such as religion, abortion, homosexuality, the Nokia N95 and the like.

Ultimately then I’m not completely convinced about Knol, but the web needs competition and – should it prove successful – a free alternative (even as a second source) to the ubiquitous Wikipedia is undoubtedly a good thing…


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