Knol: Google's Take On Wikipedia, With A Twist

Dennis Faas's picture

Wikipedia is everyone's one-stop-shop for quick answers online. The name, an amalgamation of 'wiki' (a collaborative website) and 'encyclopedia', is the "biggest multilingual free-content encyclopedia on the Internet." Once virtually alone in its field, the site faces new competition from Google.

The seven year-old site has over 75, 000 contributors and over 10 million articles published in over 250 languages. Allowing people from all walks of life to write, contribute to and supplement articles has allowed it to amass a truly global, if not academically sound, archive of information.

There are significant differences between Wikipedia and Google's recently-released Knol (short for knowledge). For one thing, Knol is a moneymaking endeavour; users have ownership over their work in a way impossible under Wikipedia's open concept collaborative framework.

Knol contributors can opt to approve suggested changes to their articles as well as the choice to include Google ads, thus increasing their profits. (Source:

Unlike Wikipedia, which keeps adding text to existing entries, Knol will allow multiple articles on the same subject.

This attempt to encourage knowledge through disagreement and peer evaluation may resonate with the academic world in a way Wikipedia never could. Multiple articles on similar or identical topics allows for disagreement and professional criticism, something noticeably absent from Wikipedia. Eflux Media reports that Knol is just the thing for the "millions of people out there who are experts in their specific domain, but they don't have the technical abilities or the time or the interest to create a blog or a website." (Source:

What emerges as the fundamental difference espoused by Knol is the focus on "individual research, expertise and real identities." Knol seems to be bridging the gap between academic journal and Wikipedia in an innovative new way.

It will be interesting to see how popular Knol becomes. What seems most likely is that professionals may see Knol as a more reliable source for information, especially given the lack of anonymity in authorship, while everyday Joes will continue to use Wikipedia. We'll just have to wait and see.

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