Google's Knols: Will These End Up in Our Search Results?


While it was initially announced in December 2007 and covered on our parent blog GigaOm, Google has just released its Knol service to the public. As noted on the Google Operating System blog, Knol appears at first glance to have a lot in common with Wikipedia–a centralized repository for sharing units of knowledge–but may be more comparable with knowledge-sharing sites such as HubPages.

Unlike on Wikipedia, authors of entries on Knol are identified by name and have posted biographies of themselves. Anyone is free to contribute a Knol, which Google defines as “an authoritative article about a specific topic.” Knol users can also suggest changes to any entry, unless the author(s) of a Knol have specified closed collaboration for the entry.

There aren’t all that many Knols created yet, so the site is pretty thin on content, but some authors are starting to submit tech- and web-related Knols. For example, D. Pejman has a (fairly terse) entry on what Web 2.0 refers to and Jonathan Gheller has responded to it with a link to his Knol on information overload.

According to the previous post on GigaOm about Knols, Udi Manber from Google has said “our job in Search Quality will be to rank the knols appropriately when they appear in Google search results.” That post also refers to this interesting piece on Knols.

The most interesting point that Danny Sullivan makes in the post I just linked to is that Google could eventually use Knols to incorporate an advantage in its searching over other knowledge aggregators. The company might elevate Knols in search results.

I already tire of the amount of questionable knowledge I get from aggregators such as Wikipedia when I go to search. I’m not so sure I want more randomness, opinions and just plain errors in them. At this stage, there aren’t enough Knols for this to be much of a concern, but while Knols may end up providing some useful content, I’d prefer to have them compartmentalized away from my search results.

Do you think Knols will become popular? Will they be incorporated into our Google search returns?


Mike Gale

This fits very well with some of the basic themes of Google. They are focused on getting value from other people’s contributions without paying them. (Just look at search where you have to opt out of caching, grabbing library contents with OCR, even when in copyright…)

This is closer to the original ideas of Jimmy Wales et. al. that eventually crystallised out as Wikipedia. It shares problems that those guys had.

Given the fact that Wikipedia has problems, and people now know about the general idea, it might gain more traction than you’d otherwise expect.

From the description (I’ve not checked it out yet) it’s what a lot of people are already doing with blogs with a couple of differences, like an absence of mind-numbingly vacuous comments. People are kinda already trained.

Given that web content had degraded over the last 7 to 10 years it might help raise quality. I think Google needs to be very cautious about dishonestly elevating the results though. Their advertising behaviour is questionable and that would further fuel a backlash.


Knols will definitely become more popular than Wikipedia mainly due to its personalisation feature and Google brand. Every author generally desires to have his/her name be placed prominently. I like Knol more than Wikipedia even though it is too early to compare them.

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