After a half year of testing, Google publicly launched its Knol service this week and the inter-webs are buzzing about how it will stack up against its similar encyclopedia-like competitors. As you’ll see from the comparison below, Knol is much less restrictive than Wikipedia when it comes to creating content.
Knol vs. Wikipedia
Right out of the gate there are several major differences between Knol and Wikipedia that make publishing information much more accessible. First, anyone can create a “Knol” (page) on any topic, even if its already been written about. It will be common to find multiple pages on the same subject written by different authors. Google doesn’t have a team of moderators to keep content aligned to a specific viewpoint, and multiple perspectives on topics are encouraged.
Each Knol author has complete control over the content they create. It can’t be modified or deleted without the author’s permission. Any subject can be written about as long as it falls under Knols’ Terms of Service and Content Policy. Unlike Wikipedia, self-promotion is acceptable as the content policy states “You may use Knol to create articles for your business or to promote your lawful products or services.”
Once a Knol has been published, readers are free to post comments, assign a rating or write a review on the content. These abilities are clearly missing from Wikipedia and add an extra layer of interaction between the author and the reading community.
The final difference between Knol and Wikipedia lies in the author’s ability to monetize their content. Google AdSense banners can be placed on Knol pages to potentially generate small amounts of income as content becomes popular. One of Google’s biggest hurdles right now is the task of starting a knowledge-base from scratch. Hopefully this type of incentive will be enough to consistently attract writing talent and help build a repository worth returning to.
The future of Knol
Just as I’ve done above, most articles being written about Knol immediately compare it to Wikipedia. How can you not when it’s the most well-known online information archive in the world? However, Knol really has more in common with HubPages.com and Seth Godin’s Squidoo.com. Both of these sites have the same ability to create un-moderated, monetized content, and Knol could potentially give them a run for their money.
While both Squidoo and HubPages give authors complete control over their content, they have not been widely used as alternatives to Wikipedia. Knol’s clean and professional design could be the just what this type of platform needs to attract businesses who have encountered multiple failed attempts to publish information there. At the same time, this is a double edged sword that could see Knol turning into a glorified business directory. Smart businesses will leverage the expertise they have in their respective verticals and publish high quality content that is not purely a marketing sell sheet.
Regardless, this is an ambitious addition to the Google product line-up, and it should be very interesting to see how it evolves over the next few years. What is your opinion of Knol? Will it survive and flourish or struggle to grow in the shadow of its rivals?