Unless you live under a rock, you are aware that Google launched “Knol” late last week. Immediate comparisons are being made to Wikipedia and Mahalo. However, a more accurate comparison can be made to Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger’s latest project, Citizendium, which focuses exclusively on the submissions of industry experts.
I’m not going to go into detail about the general concept (you can read this Mashable review if you’d like). Rather, I’d like to focus on the advantages and disadvantages of Knol.
First off, the most apparent benefit of such system is the idea of a single, expert voice. This (in most cases) ensures that the article is not only credible, but also properly structured. Secondly, there is motivation for the publisher, both in terms of notoriety and monetary compensation. Lastly, community features, such as reviews, comments, and publisher profiles add credibility, authority, and validation to the entire system.
From a negative perspective, Knol articles are only presented from the point-of-view of one author. This means that bias and opinion are highly likely. Furthermore, there may also be conflicting information on a given topic from editor to editor. Finally, it may take extra time for a viewer to sort through all the articles on a given topic to locate the necessary information needed.
Most important of all, Google results will start to appear in Google searches. This creates a huge conflict of interest, as well as head-to-head competition with SEO-dominant properties (i.e. Wikipedia, About.com, etc…). A little algorithm tweak here, a little tweak there… next thing you know, Knol pages are dominating the first page results. Now, I’m not saying this is going to happen, but it does pose a very lucrative opportunity for Google. If Knol pages are able to rank higher than Wikipedia pages, Google’s ad revenues will skyrocket. Nevertheless, I’m sure many will be keeping a very close watch on the entry of Knol pages into the search results…
For those interested, here is a screenshot courtesy of the official Google blog: Google Knol screenshot.