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July 23, 2008

Share Your Expertise in Google's Knol

Knol is a new Google service created for sharing knowledge. The service has been announced in December 2007 and it's now publicly available.

Knol has much more in common with Squidoo and HubPages than with Wikipedia. The service is centered around authors: each Knol article displays the name of its author and links to a small biography. Google even lets you verify your identity, but this only works if you live on the US.

Knol doesn't intend to become an encyclopedia, so there's no single article about a topic. An author can write about almost any topic, but it's recommended to write authoritative content.

There are three levels of collaboration in Knol:

* open collaboration (any Knol user can edit the article)
* moderate collaboration (any Knol user can suggest changes to the article - enabled by default)
* closed collaboration (only the co-authors can edit the article)

Google uses a rich-text editor borrowed from Page Creator, so it's much easier to edit knols than Wikipedia articles. Users can rate the articles, add comments and write reviews, much like for scholarly works.

By default, articles are licensed as Creative Commons Attribution, but you can change the license in the settings. It's nice to see that Google encourages the use of flexible licenses that allow content reuse.

Like in Blogger, Google provides an option to monetize your articles using Google AdSense, but the ads are displayed in a fixed position. Knol doesn't let you customize the layout of the page and you can't add JavaScript code, objects or iframes.

Search Engine Land says that Knol is a service created by Google's search quality team. "I do believe [Knol] does solve a search problem. The problem we have, unlocking what people know and bringing it online. This is another tool to help release some of this knowledge," explains Cedric Dupont, the product manager for Knol.

While Google has many other services that allow people to share their knowledge (Blogger, Google Docs, Google Sites), Knol encourages experts to make the search results better by sharing what they know. After all, Knol articles are indexed by search engines and Google promises to not give them preferential treatment.

"Your name is behind your knol, and it should reflect your unique point of view. Be succinct, but comprehensive on your topic of choice. Provide references, and display your credentials. Readers will want to know who you are and gain context on the knols you are writing." - these are some of the guidelines for writing good Knol articles.

I think that Google managed to develop a very solid service with a lot of interesting features that encourage originality (a list of web pages with similar content), a sense of ownership (your name is included even in the URL) and information accuracy (peer reviews and suggested edits).

Update. Some example of knols: How to Backpack, Buttermilk Pancakes, Type 1 Diabetes, A Distributed Document Repository.


  1. While the WYSIWYG editor surely gives an 'easier' Word-like experience to the users, I think Wikipedia's approach is superior. By usage of simple html, templates, classes and stylistic guidelines, Wikipedia articles have a consistent look throughout. In Knol some articles use colours for references and some do not, some indent paragraphs and some do not, some just are uncatchy walls of text better suited for a book than a webpage.

    Word-like WYSIWYG interfaces might be easier, but TEX-like engines do tend to output more consistent and higher quality output.

    I don't know whether the actual quality of content on Know will make up for this, but it will be probably a pain to make sure that the best content will look its best.

  2. Browsing through the topics, it reads like a medical journal with a few How-To's thrown in to break up the monotony. If nothing else, it will definitely be a rich information source for Google Health medical conditions info. I wonder if this will be heavily weighted toward scientific/medical type content.

    Seems promising though. I hope it becomes a reliable source of information. Interesting that aside from the URL, the Google branding is almost nowhere to be found.

    I also wonder how efficient it will be when searching for information on very popular topics where Wikipedia has one specific page for a topic with references to others. The Knol model will potentially have several (maybe a lot of) pages for the same subject.

  3. If anyone is interested in purchasing which is a website similar to Google Knol, send an e-mail to info [AT] oondi [DOT] com. The time is now for these types of websites; the business model has just been validated by Google.

    The distinct advantage of is that the site also targets other languages such as Dutch and French, which is unique in comparison to Squidoo, HubPages, Google Knol, etc...

    Serious inquires or offers only please.

  4. In what way is this not a Wikipedia-killer?

  5. It has been launched to kill Wikipedia, but I believe Wikipedia will in turn kill knol. People are used to Wikipedia............the layout is superb, content is good and editing is open to everyone.

    Knol has a very weak layout. For example, it doesn't even fit into my 15" monitor, I have to scroll through horizontally. the article a credit to someone.......seems too egoistic.

    One more disadvantage is that it is SLOWER & SLUGGISH than Wikipedia

  6. Why should every new product be a killer of an existing product? Knol is complementary to Wikipedia: if you know a lot about a topic, you could either contribute to existing Wikipedia articles or create a Knol that can be edited only be you and the people you invite.

  7. Knol is very similar to Scholarpedia:

    " * Each article is written by an expert (invited or elected by the public).
    * Each article is anonymously peer reviewed to ensure accurate and reliable information.
    * Each article has a curator - typically its author -- who is responsible for its content.
    * Any modification of the article needs to be approved by the curator before it appears in the final, approved version."

  8. This is a wikihowto killer. It cannot compete with Wikipedia because its structure is fundamentally different.

  9. Does anyone know how Google Knol relates to Google Docs? I just created an unpublished closed collaborative knol and realized very quickly there is a limit of five admins and authors allowed.

  10. It seems that Knol has been created using JotSpot, the service acquired by Google last year. The other service created from JotSpot is Google Sites.

  11. I like it so far, but it would be nice to have a "favorites" feature.

  12. I'm not convinced that this Google idea is any different from Wikipedia, seems like Google is just trying to kill the fact that every single article on the planet is linked to from Wikipedia.

  13. I had setup a Google Knol Tracker, , to track what kind of articles show up on Google Knol’s frontpage.

    So far it’s very heavily health related and with articles that are a lot more eZineArticles like rather than Wikipedia like. I think Knol will provide a lot more competition to the article directories than it will Wikipedia or other similar sites.

  14. I think knol is going to be great. I just started a new blog about it a few minutes ago

  15. Thank you for the great post! I am convinced that knol will be one of the best ressources in the internet. Knol is build up in a way that it can be referenced for academic works. Wikipedia is not able to deliver this.

  16. Wikipedia is not able to deliver this.

  17. How to get invited to Knol?
    How do you get on the beta for Google's Knol?

  18. You don't need an invitation to use Knol.

  19. thanks for give me valuable information.

  20. Creating a knol is very easy. See how to create a knol in simple steps.


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