Wikipedia is the fount of all knowledge for some of us. Yes, some of the content can be factually dubious, and no, we shouldn’t use Wikipedia to try and answer all of life’s questions, but it is a useful tool nonetheless. But now, it has a competitor, sort of, in the form of Knol, from Google.
There are some very big differences between the sites, but the best way of describing Knol, is as a monetizable, moderated Wikipedia.
Knol was first announced last December, and has been in beta testing ever since. Now, according to a post on the Official Google Blog, it is fully open for everyone to use. The new resource is located at Knol.Google.com, but unlike other Google properties, it is known simply as Knol, rather than Google Knol.
The site allows anyone, anywhere to author a page, or a Knol, on any subject. Unlike Wikipedia, the author will forever be attached to that page, and more importantly, be in control f everything that is posted there. This will be achieved by what is being called Moderated Collaboration, and basically means that while any reader can suggest an edit to a page, that page’s author will have the final say on whether to accept, reject, or modify these suggestions.
This should prevent the kind of abuse, and vandalism that has ruined Wikipedia to a certain extent, and also lead the site to consider introducing moderation itself.
The other big difference between Knol and Wikipedia is the inclusion of monetization options. Whereas Wikipedia is a non-profit, almost charitable organisation where everyone works for the greater good of educating others (and possibly driving traffic to their blog or website in the process), Knol does offer the chance for contributors to make money.
This is done via the option to include Google Adsense on any particular page, and the author of that page to make some revenue from it. The big problem with this is that it will only encourage people to write about subjects they know will gain high traffic, while ignoring niche subjects that very few people will ever want to read about. So expect to see certain celebrities and politicians gaining many Knol pages in the near future, while academic fields get forgotten about.
This actually reminds me more of Squidoo than Wikipedia, so I’m expecting a kind of cross between the two. Google has stated it isn’t trying to compete with Wikipedia, probably because it know it doesn’t stand a chance, but Knol will at leas add to the reams of information about all subjects on the Internet. I think that’s a good thing, at least in principle, but quality may prove more worthwhile than quantity in the long-term.