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A Knol on knee surgery
Slogan Knol, a unit of knowledge
놀, 넓은 지식 넓은 공감(Knol, wide knowledge wide sympathy)
Commercial? Yes
Type of site Reference
Registration Yes
Available language(s) English, Korean, Arabic, German, Dutch, Italian, French, Spanish, Japanese, Russian, Hebrew
Owner Google
Created by Google
Launched July 23, 2008
November 24, 2008(South Korea)
Current status public beta

Knol is a Google project which aims to include user-written articles on a range of topics.[1] The project was led by Udi Manber of Google,[2] it was announced on December 13, 2007 and was opened in beta to the public on July 23, 2008[3] with a few hundred articles mostly in the health and medical field.[2][4] On January 16, 2009, Google announced that Knol had grown to 100,000 articles, and users from 197 countries and territories visit Knol on an average day.[5]

Knol pages are "meant to be the first thing someone who searches for this topic for the first time will want to read", according to Manber.[1] The term knol, which Google defines as a "unit of knowledge",[6] refers to both the project and an article in the project.[1] Several experts see Knol as Google's attempt to compete with Wikipedia,[7] while others point out the differences between the projects.[8]


[edit] Content

Any contributors can create (and own) new knols, and there can be multiple articles on the same topic, each written by a different author.[9][10] Because multiple articles can have the same title, readers find a topic by searching, rather than just by title. The authors have an option to allow their knols to be edited by the public, to make them editable only to co-authors or to make them closed entirely. They may also choose to include ads from Google's AdSense to their knols. Knol has a content policy describing topics unacceptable for the project. Relevant nudity is allowed (in most countries),[11] but pornography, commercial or otherwise, is forbidden.[12] Also forbidden is discriminatory or violent content. Content designed to promote businesses, products or services is allowed, but articles devoid of substantive content and created solely to generate ad revenue are not.[12]

In October 2008, Google unveiled using Knols as a forum for debate,[13] and enabled French, Italian and German versions, in the face of stagnating traffic.[14]

[edit] Criticism

The content of Knol has been the subject of some strident criticism.[15] [16] Commentators have called it a "wasteland" of articles copied from other sources, entries that were outdated or abandoned, as well as spam or self-promotion.[17] Knol is frequently criticized for featuring incomplete and inaccurate articles.[14] Farhad Manjoo of Slate criticized Knol for allowing advertising as a motive and for not having a clear manual of style.[18] After the publishing of the 100,000th Knol, similar criticisms still remained, with commentators decrying the hundreds of repetitive entries,[16] as well as what some have called a potential for spam.[19]

[edit] Process

All contributors to the Knol project must sign in first with a Google account and are supposed to state their real names.[2] If permission is given, Google will check the veracity of the name information by credit card or phone. Google "[believes] that knowing who wrote what will significantly help users make better use of web content", and it hopes that "knols will include the opinions and points of view of the authors who will put their reputation on the line".[1]

Readers with Google accounts may rate, comment on, or suggest edits to the knols, in the style of comments after a blog entry. When the project was announced, Manber said that "Google will not serve as an editor in any way, and will not bless any content. All editorial responsibilities and control will rest with the authors."[1]

All knols are licensed by default under the Creative Commons CC-BY-3.0 license (which allows anyone to reuse the material as long as the original author is named), but authors may choose the CC-BY-NC-3.0 license (which prohibits commercial reuse) or traditional all rights reserved copyright protections instead.[2][20][21]

Knol employs "nofollow" outgoing links, using an HTML directive to prevent links in its articles from influencing search engine rankings.[22]

[edit] Reception

[edit] Competition

Knol has been described both as a rival to encyclopedia sites such as Wikipedia, Citizendium, and Scholarpedia[23][24] and as a complement to Wikipedia, offering a different format that addresses many of Wikipedia's shortcomings.[25][26][27] The non-profit Wikimedia Foundation, which owns the name Wikipedia and the servers hosting the Wikipedia projects, welcomed the Google Knol initiative saying that "The more good free content, the better for the world."[28] While Wikipedia articles are written collectively under a "neutral point of view" policy,[29] Knol will highlight personal expertise by emphasizing authorship[10] and, like articles provided on Squidoo, HubPages, and, knols will contain the personal opinions of the author.[1][30]

Despite the official Wikimedia response and the differences in format, former Wikimedia Foundation chair Florence Devouard has expressed concern over Knol's potential threat to Wikipedia in terms of the competition it will create.[31] After Knol's beta launch, Google product manager Cedric Dupont responded to the idea that Google intended Knol to be a "Wikipedia killer" by saying, “Google is very happy with Wikipedia being so successful. Anyone who tries to kill them would hurt us.”[4] The New York Times noted similarities in design between Knol and Wikipedia, such as use of the same font.[4] Dupont responded that the use was simply a coincidence as it is a commonly used font.[4]

Because of Knol's format, some have said Knol will be more like than Wikipedia.[24] According to Wolfgang Hansson, a writer at DailyTech, Knol may have been planned for originally when it was up for acquisition. Hansson reported that several sources close to the sale said Google was planning to acquire, but the executives at learned Google was planning to move from's model to a wiki-style model. That would have meant layoffs for all 500 or so "Guides" at[32]

[edit] Conflict of interest

There has been debate whether Google search results can remain neutral because of possible conflict of interest.[33][34] According to Danny Sullivan, the editor of Search Engine Land, "Google’s goal of making Knol pages easy to find on search engines could conflict with its need to remain unbiased."[34] Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, raised similar concerns: "At the end of the day, there's a fundamental conflict between the business Google is in and its social goals. What you're seeing here, slowly, is Google embracing an advertising-driven model, in which money will have a greater impact on what people have ready access to."[35] As a response to such concerns it has been pointed out[27][33] that Google already hosts large amounts of content in sites like Google Base, Google Pages, YouTube, Blogger and Google Groups and that there is no significant difference in this case. Nicholas Carr, a frequent technology commentator, dismissed predictions of Google manipulating results saying that Google is hoping the most popular Knol pages will rise naturally through the search results, challenging Wikipedia and providing another area of content that can carry Google ads.[36][37]

Since its announcement in December 2007, there has also been speculation on Google's motives and its position as a producer of content rather than as an organizer. The Guardian's Jack Schofield argued that "Knol represents an attack on the media industry in general."[38]

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b c d e f Manber, Udi (2007-12-13). "Encouraging People to Contribute Knowledge". Official Google blog (06:01:00 PM). Google. Retrieved on 2008-07-23. 
  2. ^ a b c d Levy, Steven (2008-07-23). "Google Throws Open Rival for Wikipedia — Anon Authors Discouraged". Wired News. Retrieved on 2008-07-23. 
  3. ^ Mills, Ellis (2008-07-23). "Google's Wikipedia rival, Knol, goes public". CNET News. Retrieved on 2008-07-23. 
  4. ^ a b c d Helft, Miguel (2008-07-23). "Wikipedia, Meet Knol". The New York Times. Retrieved on 2008-07-23. 
  5. ^ Dupont, Cedric (2009-01-16). "100,000th knol published". Official Google blog (02:26:00 PM). Google. Retrieved on 2009-01-16. 
  6. ^ Monaghan, Angela (2007-12-14). ""Google's 'knol' may challenge Wikipedia". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved on 2007-12-15. 
  7. ^ "Google debuts knowledge project". BBC. 2007-12-15. Retrieved on 2007-12-15. "Many experts see the initiative as an attack on the widely used Wikipedia communal encyclopaedia." 
  8. ^ "Google Knol Released. It's Not Wikipedia.". 
  9. ^ Schofield, Jack (2008-07-23). "Google opens up Knol, its Wikipedia-for-cash project". The Guardian. Retrieved on 2008-07-26. 
  10. ^ a b Blakely, Rhys (2007-12-15). "Google to tackle Wikipedia with new knowledge service". The Times. Retrieved on 2007-12-15. "[K]nol looks set to foster rivalry. Contributors to Knol will not be able to contribute anonymously and will not be able to edit each other’s work, [...]. Whereas on Wikipedia, readers find only one entry on, say, the First World War, on Knol authors will submit separate pieces that will compete for advertising dollars." 
  11. ^ "Breast Augmentation". Knol. 
  12. ^ a b "Content Policy". Google. Retrieved on 2008-07-23. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ a b "Google Knol Opens In French, German and Italian". TechCrunch. October 30, 2008. 
  15. ^ Harvey, Mike (September 6, 2008). "Google: In search of technology’s new frontiers". The Times. Retrieved on 2008-09-23. 
  16. ^ a b Anderson, Nate (Jan 19, 2009). "Google Knol six months later: Wikipedia need not worry". Ars Technica. Retrieved on 2009-01-21. 
  17. ^ Manjoo, Farhad (September 22, 2008). "Chuck Knol". Slate. Retrieved on 2008-09-23. 
  18. ^ Manjoo, Farhad. "Chuck Knol." Slate. 1.
  19. ^ Arthur, Chris (7 August 2008). "Google attacked over Knol's spam potential". The Guardian. Retrieved on 2009-01-21. 
  20. ^ Knol help on licenses, Google. Retrieved on 2008-07-25.
  21. ^ Mike Linksvayer, Google Code adds content licensing; Google Knol launches with CC BY default, Creative Commons Blog, July 23, 2008
  22. ^ Lenssen, Philipp (2008-07-24). "Knol’s Nofollowing Of Links". Google Blogoscoped. Retrieved on 2008-07-30. 
  23. ^ Riley, Duncan (2007-12-14). "Google Knol: A Step Too Far?". TechCrunch. Retrieved on 2007-12-14. 
  24. ^ a b Frederick, Lane (2007-12-14). "Death Knell Sounds for Wikipedia,". NewsFactor Network. Retrieved on 2007-12-14. 
  25. ^ Masnick, Mike (2007-12-14). "Google Decides Organizing The World's Information Is Easier If That Info Is Online". Techdirt. Retrieved on 2007-12-14. 
  26. ^ Manjoo, Farhad (2007-12-14). "Truthiness showdown: Google's "Knol" vs. Wikipedia". Retrieved on 2007-12-14. 
  27. ^ a b Hof, Rob (2007-12-14). "Google's Knol: No Wikipedia Killer". Businessweek. Retrieved on 2007-12-14. 
  28. ^ Levy, Ari (2007-12-14). "Google Starts Web Site Knol to Challenge Wikipedia". Bloomberg. Retrieved on 2007-12-15. 
  29. ^ "Wikipedia:Neutral_point_of_view". 
  30. ^ Murrell, John (2007-12-14). "Google’s philosophy: Knol thyself". Retrieved on 2007-12-14. 
  31. ^ [Foundation-l] [Announcement] update in board of trustees membership
  32. ^ Hansson, Wolfgang (2007-12-14). "Google Announces Knol Wikipedia-like Service". DailyTech. Retrieved on 2007-12-14. 
  33. ^ a b Greenberg, Andy (2007-12-14). "Google's Know-It-All Project". Forbes. Retrieved on 2007-12-16. 
  34. ^ a b Helft, Miguel (2007-12-15). "Wikipedia Competitor Being Tested by Google". New York Times. Retrieved on 2007-12-15. "Some critics said that shift could compromise Google’s objectivity in presenting search results." 
  35. ^ Schiffman, Betsy (2007-12-14). "Knol Launch: Google's 'Units of Knowledge' May Raise Conflict of Interest". Wired. Retrieved on 2007-12-15. 
  36. ^ Carr, Nicholas (2007-12-13). "Google Knol takes aim at Wikipedia". Retrieved on 2007-12-14. 
  37. ^ Morrison, Scott (2007-12-14). "Google Targets Wikipedia With New 'Knol' Pages". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved on 2008-07-24. 
  38. ^ Schofield, Jack (2007-12-15). "Google tries Knol, an encyclopedia to replace Wikipedia". The Guardian. Retrieved on 2007-12-15. 

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