Tonight Google announced on their official blog that they are launching a Wikipedia competitor, which they will label "knol". It's worth reading the press release yourself because Wikipedia is one of the cornerstones of the web, and the symbiotic relationship between Wikipedia and Google could be in jeapordy. What do I mean by that - Wikipedia is often in the top results for Google, as it is often the most reliable and valuable content on the web; at the same time, Google is the number one referrer to Wikipedia, driving a significant number of its millions of users monthly. Now Google is potentially creating a resource that will want priority over Wikipedia in search engines. There are HUGE questions here:
- How will Knol maintain quality control, without editors or a wikipedia-style self-policing community
- Will author and page ratings be enough
- Will they rely on search algorithms
- What will be the value factors
- How will they fight 'gaming' of the system, link farming, etc, that will draw heavy attention due to the connection to Google
- Is there a concern that Google will slowly own all of the content that is prioritized in all of its search engines
- It has most of the video between YouTube and Google Video, what if it has most of the content pages
- Does the world need another Wikipedia, what is this going to do that Wikipedia doesn't already do so well?
- If this is done wrong, will it jeopardize the value of the search engine or fill it with spam?
For myself, I'm skeptical that we need Knol, and whether Google as an impartial search engine should be providing it. Wikipedia is one of the great success stories of the web - a near perfect example of global utility, global scale, global teamwork and policing. It's one of the single most useful resources on the web and many people's day wouldn't be the same without it. It has an unusual levle of trust that has not disappeared with it's success, all of which is to be admired. So there are a lot of questions about Google's intent, and whether they will succeed, and there will be a lot of people watching.
Meanwhile, donate money to Wikipedia HERE - you all use it all of the time, and it's not ad supported, so it needs the donations.