Elliott C. Back: Internet & Technology

Google Knol: Your Name Sucks

Posted in Google by Elliott Back on December 15th, 2007.

Some kind of bizarre cross between the words “knowledge” and “knoll”, the name of Google’s new product Knol, according to my astute girlfriend, “just doesn’t make sense” and is “hard to pronounce.” The NYT has a good article Wikipedia Competitor Being Tested by Google explaining what Knol is:

The service, called Knol, which is short for knowledge, would allow people to create Web pages on any topic. It is designed to include features that permit readers to submit comments, rate pages and suggest changes. However, unlike Wikipedia, which allows anyone to edit an entry, only the author of a “knol,” as the pages in the service would be called, would be allowed to edit. Different authors could have competing pages on the same topic.

The sample Knol page they give indicates what the service is and does:


You write a page, Google hosts it, it competes with other Knol pages (which probably will be given preferrential SERPs results, ala Wikipedia today), there are Adsense Ads, Google profits, you profit, and Wikipedia / Squidoo / Yahoo Answers go down in flames. There are a few problems with Google moving into the content business, and with Knol:

The name sucks

It’s un-brandable, it evokes an etymology of trolls, and it’s forgettable. The name has no association with the Google brand or any of the current Google products. Why not go with something simple and consistent, like “Google Pages?” Oh wait, pages.google.com is already taken.

The conflict of interest

Once Knol pages start ranking ahead of Wikipedia pages for various topics, Google will have violated it’s “do no evil” corporate policy. When it takes a stake in the content that appears in its search results, those results must either remain entirely impartial–which makes bad business sense–or they must rank Google content better than other content–which makes bad ethics sense. Who thinks Knol will start with a PR10? Me.

Fighting Wikipedia

Last time Google tried this, with Google Answers, it failed horribly. No one really wanted to contribute. Somehow, someway, Wikipedia has figured out the magic sauce that gets thousands of fanatical Wikipediers to build up their content. Google hasn’t done that yet, and that is Knol’s major barrier to entry.

Oh, the Spam

Building out spam pages will become easier and more lucrative with backing from Google. Instead of creating a blog about the latest keyword of choice, just make Knol pages. Google promotes them for you, and gives you a cut of the cash. How are they going to fight this?

This entry was posted on Saturday, December 15th, 2007 at 2:56 pm and is tagged with . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback.

4 Responses to “Google Knol: Your Name Sucks”

  1. RS says:

    Isn’t Wikipedia unreliable enough? Now Google wants a new Wikipedia without even the little bit of editorial control that Wikipedia exerts?

    The New York Times article on Knol:
    “Google said that a main idea behind the project was to bring attention to authors who have expertise on a particular topic.”

    Um, isn’t that what Google search results are supposed to be doing? This is clearly an admission from Google that their SERPs are being constantly gamed by SEO firms, if they need a product like Knol to highlight what they think is real, expert info.

    Wikipedia, About, Google … the point of all of them is to help people find information. If any of them were doing a particularly good job of it, you wouldn’t see sites like findingDulcinea and Mahalo jumping in to fill that gaping hole.

    Maybe Google should concentrate more on providing relevant search results instead of just spewing the Web sites of companies who have big SEO budgets.

  2. Edward Richarson says:

    The name Knol rules. Im going to name my kid that. There going to call him Know for short. That’s off the hook. Thanx for the name Google. Knol Richarson will thank u when he is able to speak

  3. kevin gamble says:

    I don’t know where this “sole writer” meme got started. There is nothing in Knol that suggests that these will be written in isolation. Think Google Docs and Jotspot…

  4. Mark Moran says:

    Why is Google promoting a sole writer’s viewpoint on a subject matter? Isn’t the beauty of the Web that you can quickly access multiple sources of information about almost anything ? This project is one more acknowledgment (following on the heels of Yahoo’s Search Assist) that search engines often fail to answer a user’s question (85% of the time, according to Yahoo). Most users don’t want to wade through more than the first five results, and, to Google’s chagrin, Wikipedia is almost always one of those five. A wealth of search results has led to a poverty of attention paid to any one of them, and the best results, often on the second page, are never even read. This is what has given rise to the second-generation of human-powered search alternatives, such as findingDulcinea, Organized Wisdom, ChaCha, Mahalo, each of which in their own way distills the Internet through a filter of human judgment.

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