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.
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?
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