google_stream_cleaner.jpgGoogle has launched arguably its best new product in years, and no it’s not a steam cleaning company (but more on that in a minute).
Knol is a new service that invites experts to write articles on niche subjects, with the idea that those articles will appear in search results when people go looking for information on Google. The bonus? The author gets to share in the ad revenue.
This is genius and a tremendously bold move on the part of Google to expand into the content business (something they’ve not done before – itself a big deal) and leverage their own ability to drive huge amounts of traffic to web pages, while simultaneously compensating the contributors.
Naturally, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales is having to defend his position as Knol is inevitably being compared to Wikipedia in the media, and the new venture from Google could seriously challenge the collaboratively written encyclopaedia. At the very least it might tempt high profile Wikipedia writers away, drawn by potential riches at Google.
Google claims that it will not give its new project any special treatment in the search engine results, and that the ‘knols’ written by people will face the same search algorithm that all other pages do. On this subject I have faith – Google has historically shown complete fairness with search results. Only very recently for example did Google Translate show up in 1st position for the seach term ‘translate’, after years where Alta Vista’s Babel Fish was 1st. Do a search for ‘online video’ and YouTube comes in at 14th position.
The name Knol is great too – short, sweet and subconsciously well known by people (the grassy knol?), but they have possibly made one major error in all this. It turns out that the domain name is owned by a Dutch steam cleaning business, and according to their website… they ain’t selling!
Perhaps Google thinks that Knol is not really a destination site as the goal is for the pages to show up in search results. But I guarantee you this… if it takes off, as I think it will over time, that Dutch cleaning business may want to start their own fountain of knowledge site – the typein traffic is going to be huge! See the graph below for the spike in the steam cleaning website traffic in December, when Google first announced Knol.
I am actually quite excited by this project of Google’s and I could easily see myself writing Knols as the mood grabs me.
But there’s one major FLAW to both Google and Wikipedia’s efforts, and not one that I can reveal at this time. Sorry if that’s annoying, but you’ll just have to wait and see…

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