Google continues to take a page from the early Microsoft play-book: Take someone else’s cool idea, do it better, and steamroll the competition. Next up: a human-generated Wikipedia and About.com (NYT) killer, Knols.
Knols provides web based templates with which experts can write posts about areas of expertise. Readers can then rank (and link to) the posts, which affects where they appear in Google search rankings. Google will share ad revenue with writers, thus providing an economic incentive to participate. (Full details from Google’s Udi Manber here. Example of a Knol here.)
The success of Knols will depend on execution: specifically, whether it’s easy and cool. But the model has several advantages over existing competitors…
- Author branding. Wikipedia is a miraculous phenomenon, with the true miracle being that so many experts are willing to waste so much time creating content they’ll never get any credit or money for. Knols credits authors: The posts are by-lined.
- Author compensation. Wikipedia is created by an army of volunteers. Knols authors have an opportunity to get paid. The good news from Google’s perspective is that they’ll get paid based on the revenue they generate, not based on the number of crappy posts they submit.
- Author accountability. Wikipedia’s greatest flaw is that any idiot or evangelist can change it. This is fine, except that it’s nice to know which idiot/evangelist is responsible for what you’re reading, so you don’t mistake it for objective fact. In the Knols system, authors are responsible for their own copy, and idiot evangelists will be made irrelevant with distant search rankings.
- Comments/Peer Reviews. Readers can comment on posts and other experts can review them. This is arguably a far better system than Wikipedia, where readers who disagree can just change the content.
The Knols concept, obviously, could be applied to more than “articles”: Big media, human generated search (Mahalo), About.com, and other applications jump to mind. Lots of folks should pray silently that Knols bombs.
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