Monday, 28 July 2008

Google officially launches Knol

Google first announced the development of its 'Knol' website back in December last year and they have now 'officially' launched the site, although it is still showing as a beta version. Although seen by some as a potential competitor to Wikipedia, Knol is positioned as a source of authoritative articles on specific topics, written by experts in the field. It is therefore unlikely to develop at the speed of Wikipedia and to the same scale of content, but intends to be seen as a reliable source of information.

At the moment, much of the content on Knol is of a medical or scientific nature. Google wants this site to encourage people to contribute their knowledge online and make it accessible to everyone, with the key principle behind Knol being 'authorship'. Every knol (or unit of knowledge) will have an author (or group of authors) who put their name behind their content. There are likely to be multiple knols written on the same subject, which Google will encourage, as long as content is informed and reliable.

Knol will promote "moderated collaboration" so that authors work together to develop each article that they specialise in, so that any reader can make suggested edits to a knol which the author may then choose to accept, reject, or modify before these contributions become visible to the public. This allows authors to accept suggestions from everyone in the world while remaining in control of their content.

It sounds like a potential source of disagreement or debate on many contentious subjects from a multitude of real or 'perceived' experts, but Google is hoping that these knols will include strong community tools which allow for many modes of interaction between readers and authors. People can submit comments, rate, or write a review of a knol.

It's unlikely that Wikipedia will be too worried about Knol, at least for now, although Google retains strong control over the visitor traffic coming into Wikipedia, where the site is often a ubiquitous part of many search engine listings. Google could easily adjust their algorithms in the future to make Wikipedia less visible and to promote the use of Knol as a primary research tool.

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