When I first heard about Knol, Google’s new product to build a repository of expert pages, I, like many others, wondered what the hell – how different can this be from Wikipedia? Is Google stooping so low as to churn out another hideous me-to rerun of an old idea that was conceived well the first time around.
Although as I dig further into this, some key differences trounce the more obvious similarities.
For a start, as the San Jose Mercury points out, one of the big differences is personality. Google Knol pages are very clearly owned by a single author, whereas Wikipedia are very clearly not. This difference is substantial and could lead to experts considering keeping a presence in both places.
On this point, ZD Net throws up another plus point in the mighty G’s favour. People will hoard knowledge unless there is a compelling reason to divulge. For Wikipedia the motivation isn’t that great – you only become one of the contributors to a page. Under the Knol model you can take full credit (and some payment if you add advertising) which can definitely be a major draw. The system appears more like a blog than an encyclopedia.
The drawback around this area is more dispersed content. Whereas Wikipedia benefits by keeping related content on the same page, the Knol system could hold pages by multiple authors. It will then be up to Web2.0 tools like voting and comments to help rank the best content.
Given that Wikipedia currently enjoys many top rankings across the big G, it will be interesting to see whether the Knol can steal any of this limelight. Right, now how do I go get my own page…