Most of the big media companies are reporting a new initiative out of our friends from Mountain View. Knol (short for Knowledge) is apparently going to be a Wikipedia like service that offers knowledgeable articles on a wide range of subjects. The big difference though is that these articles will be written by ‘experts’, and users will not be able to tinker with them ala Wiki.

Google apparently has already started to amass content although currently it is an invite only program. While details are still sketchy it appears that this will be a project at least partially funded through advertising.

Google hosting content does give rise to some interesting questions though. It does not take much digging around to find disgruntled web site owners who have fallen out of favor with Google and have had their sites removed from the search index. For many, this is a death knell to their small business. To wake up one morning and discover that instead of being listed on page one for “gadgets and gizmos” you are now on page 30, or even worse, gone altogether. Many small companies are geared completely around the world of Google, and this change can be devastating.

So what has this to do with Knol? Potentially a lot. With Knol being a ‘commercial’ endeavor, Google obviously wants it to be successful, and by that I mean a money maker. Clearly the higher you rank for a given search term affects how many people visit your site, and that determines how much money you make.

How will Google rank it’s own content? Google says it will rank knols “appropriately” so that their relative worth will be reflected in search results. But that could mean anything. Lets pretend that there are comparable articles about a famous person or event on Wiki, Yahoo, and Google, which one do you think is likely to be listed first?

I am not alone is having qualms about this new service. Disconnected from content has been Googles strength, and one of the greatest reasons to use the service. You can not buy Page Rank, well not from Google at least! But this new move does bring into question the objectiveness of a search.

Simon Barrett 

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