Google launched project Knol last week. A Knol, according to Google, is a unit of knowledge. Knols are articles on any given subject, written by someone who is an expert on that subject. Google Knol is destined to be compared with and perhaps compete against Wikipedia.
Although the Web can be considered as an encyclopedia of information on various subjects, there is still a lot of information that has not yet been put online. There are lots of people who possess knowledge on various subjects that cannot be found online, and this information could be of great help to other people all over the world.
Through Knol, Google intends to encourage people to write on subjects that they have a good knowledge of, and thus disseminate this information and help millions of people.
Every Knol will be authored by a person (or a group of persons) who have expertise in that field. The name of the authors will be attached to the Knol. Obviously, it is expected that there will be several Knols on each subject, thus providing more information and differing view points to the users.
Authors on any given subject will be able to work together with each other through a method called ‘moderated collaboration’. Readers will be able to make suggestions on the Knol, but authors will have the right to accept or reject suggestions as per their wishes.
Knols will make it possible for authors and readers to interact with each other through the use of tools such as comments, ratings and reviews. The author will also have the option to choose to display ads from Google AdSense. If he does include an ad with his Knol, Google will pay him a certain percentage of the proceeds accrued from that ad placement.
Google has also made an arrangement with New Yorker magazine, by which authors will be able to include one cartoon per Knol, from the entire cartoon collection of the New Yorker. It is expected that this could be a very effective way for an author to make a point.
In some ways Google Knol will be similar to Wikipedia, Hubpages and any other collaborative online encyclopedia where people contribute information to the site. However, Google will be giving due credit to the authors and may even share advertising revenues with authors, which is not the case with Wikipedia. Thus it is possible, that those who had so far contributed to Wikipedia may be tempted to turn to Google in future.
It is also possible that in future Google may promote these Knols on their search results pages, where it currently features sites like Wikipedia, which may not be a very ethical thing to do.