Google is developing an online publishing system that many are saying could rival Wikipedia. Google's system will display content penned by folks who have knowledge about various subjects.
Google is calling the project "knol," which the company says stands for a unit of knowledge. Currently in the invitation-only beta stage, knol will allow people to develop Web pages oriented on a broad range of topics.
"There are millions of people who possess useful knowledge that they would love to share, and there are billions of people who can benefit from it. We believe that many do not share that knowledge today simply because it is not easy enough to do that," wrote Udi Manber, Google's vice president of engineering, on the official Google blog.
No Anonymous Postings
The key idea behind the knol project is to highlight authors. Books have authors' names on the cover and articles have bylines, Manber explained, but somehow the Web evolved without a strong standard to keep author names highlighted.
Knowing who wrote what, he continued, will significantly help users make better use of Web content. Manber described knol as a well-organized, nicely presented Web page with a distinct look and feel. Google will provide tools for writing and editing, and will host the created pages for free.
A knol on a particular topic is meant to be the first thing someone who searches for this topic for the first time will want to read, Manber said. Google's goal is for a knol to cover just about any topic imaginable. "Google will not serve as an editor in any way, and will not bless any content," Manber wrote.
"We hope that knols will include the opinions and points of view of the authors who will put their reputation on the line," Manber went on to say. "Anyone will be free to write. For many topics, there will likely be competing knols on the same subject. Competition of ideas is a good thing."
Capitalizing on Knol
Google s putting community tools in the knol mix, social-media style. People will be able to submit comments, questions, edits, additional content, and so on. Anyone will be able to rate a knol or write a review of it. Knols will include references and links to additional information. And, at the discretion of the author, a knol may include ads.
"If an author chooses to include ads," Manber said, "Google will provide the author with substantial revenue share from the proceeds of those ads."
And therein lies the motivation. Jeremiah Owyang, a social-media analyst at Forrester Research, said that Google's mission is to organize information -- and Google can sell advertisements on top of the information it organizes. Knol, then, could enhance Google's revenue strategy.
"This is a brilliant Web marketing strategy because it's getting people to put up content, and then Google validates it through search results. Search results are what people spend a lot of money on," Owyang said. "Naturally Google is cutting a little piece of that business out of the way by serving the content and revenue sharing with authors."