I was one of the first Google Answers Researchers when they first launched their service several years ago. At the time, it seemed like the future of knowledge aggregation. The best part about Google Answers was that it allowed anyone to ask a question for a nominal fee and approved researchers could jump at the opportunity to answer it. The service was so popular that many researchers were actually making a living from answering questions. Unfortunately, when Google loses interest in something, like their Google Search SOAP API, they simply shut it down — regardless of what it means to the people who have come to depend on it for answers and income. That was the fate of Google Answers. Similar to their SOAP API, Google Answers lives on as a static relic, reminding us that they are the ones in control, not their users.
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. The goal is for knols to cover all topics, from scientific concepts, to medical information, from geographical and historical, to entertainment, from product information, to how-to-fix-it instructions. Google will not serve as an editor in any way, and will not bless any content. All editorial responsibilities and control will rest with the authors. We hope that knols will include the opinions and points of view of the authors who will put their reputation on the line. 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.
This sounds like a good idea — and may actually be one — but Rex had some sobering ideas about knol and its potential threat to Wikipedia. He listed the following reasons why Wikipedia won’t be killed by Google’s knol:
- Google’s resources and dominance may be massive, but Google hasn’t reached death star status
- Google may have more resources than anyone else, but it doesn’t have enough resources to fight endless multi-front wars
- Google may have an army of PhDs, but Wikipedia has a militia of Ph.D candidates
- Knol is not an encyclopedia — or a wiki — or even kinda like a wiki, so how’s it going to kill something it’s not like?
- Wikipedia’s business model crushes even Google’s
- Knol may finally wake up the hippie fretards who keep Wikipedia from rolling in cash like the Mozilla Foundation
(Rex goes into further detail on all of those points in his blog entry,
Has Google killed Wikipedia with a shot from the grassy knol? Get real.)
However, for me it has less to do with who will win, but what opportunities may arise from the introduction of a huge online resource like knol. Being an SEO specialist, I mainly concern myself with how I can use a new online service for marketing purposes. For example, if I have a client who makes, distributes or sells widgets, will I be able to write about those widgets? More importantly, will I be able to link to my client’s website and will they use rel=”nofollow” on the links? My guess is that I will be able to contribute, just like I can now on Wikipedia, but everything will continue to be heavily moderated by the community leaders.
As for rel=”nofollow”, it would be nice to see Google take a bold move and utilize rel=”nofollow” in a way that makes more sense. For example, I would like a policy that automatically applies rel=”nofollow” to new links, but after several months, if nobody has removed the link, the rel=”nofollow” attribute is removed. That way, the community itself determines the validity of a link. If it’s worth leaving on the site, then it’s worth a search engine to follow it and consider it in their search algorithm.
Regardless of how Google plans to implement knol, there is definitely a reason to be concerned if you’re in the field of search marketing. Udi stated quite clearly their intention for knol as it relates to Google search. And even though he says Google won’t endorse knol’s content, you can’t escape the obvious dual relationship that’s being created (Google most certainly being the therapist in this relationship!).
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. The goal is for knols to cover all topics, from scientific concepts, to medical information, from geographical and historical, to entertainment, from product information, to how-to-fix-it instructions.
As Google increasingly enters the content space — no longer scraping other sites, but actually producing and delivering the content themselves — they stand to overtake their own search engine results (SERPs). The introduction to Universal Search and the increased Google Web properties will almost certainly ensure that the above the fold search results will be from Google entities or those closely aligned with Google. If that becomes true, and users continue to flock to Google’s search engine for information, Google will not only become a target for influencing SERPs, it will also become the next target for content manipulation.
If that’s truly a glimpse of what the future holds, then there may actually be a chance for other quality search engines like Yahoo! to compete. Google could easily end up shutting out their core users and promoters, thus influencing a mass exodus to other search engines. Another possibility is anti-trust. If Google succeeds in controlling all content, including the physical dissemination of that content, then Google may be in for a long Microsoft-like ride.