Google unveils Knol, its accountable take on Wikipedia — with ads

Months in the making, Google has finally unveiled Knol, its Wikipedia rival written by people knowledgeable in certain fields. The idea, as Google puts it, is to move information from people’s heads onto the web.

So what’s the difference between Wikipedia and Knol? The main one is authorship. Whereas Wikipedia entries can be created and edited by anyone with only an IP address being tracked, knols (the individual entries) will have authors with actual names that will be answerable for the content they create.

The other big difference? Content creators can earn money off of Knol. Yes, in keeping with what Google does best, there is an option for each knol to have Google ads on the page or not. This ad revenue is shared with the author. Google is even considering allowing ads from other networks to appear on Knol pages, according to Search Engine Land.

Google claims that Knol isn’t meant to compete with Wikipedia, but it’s hard to see it as anything but that. As Wired writes in its article interviewing Udi Manber, Google’s head of search engineering, Knol is:

“an effort to generate exactly those kind of answers [on interesting subjects by experts] in the top search results.”

Wikipedia, as many people know is often one of the top results for a vast array of terms searched for on Google. As I mentioned several months ago, it will be interesting to see if Knol results show up higher in Google search results than Wikipedia pages. It sounded like this could happen when Google first talked about Knol back in December. This could definitely undercut Wikipedia.

What if Google highlights knols in someway different from other results? Look at what it does for YouTube videos and other Google content with its universal search.

For an example of how Google would like Knol to work, check out this knol on lung cancer. It’s very detailed and includes pictures and a glossary. But perhaps most importantly, look at the upper right corner. You can clearly see that it was written by Jessica Donington, a thoracic surgeon at the NYU School of Medicine.

Fair or not, this should give some web surfers a piece of mind knowing that Larry, their next-door neighbor isn’t teaching them about lung cancer.

But you hardly have to be an expert to create your own knol — you simply need a Google account. Once you have that, you can click on the “Write a Knol” button and you’re taken to a very nice editing page (shown below). Your Google Profile image (if you have one) is displayed prominently in the top right corner and your name is placed in the byline. There is also a space for “Affiliation” if you choose to use that.

You can also change the Creative Commons Attribution license on your knol to make it so that others can use its information with proper attribution, set whether you want it to be used commercially or only non-commercially, or set it to all rights reserved.


Multiple knols can be created about the same topic and multiple authors can work on single knols. “Moderated collaboration,” as Google is calling it, will allow anyone to suggest a change to an entry, but it’s up to the author to decide whether they want to use it.

Google is also playing up the community part of Knol. It says users can submit comments, rate and even review individual knols.

The name “knol” is “a nice, very simple word to remember, and it’s part of knowledge,” Manber tells Wired.

Interestingly, Google also has struck a deal with the New Yorker magazine to use their archive of cartoons. Anyone can add one cartoon from the archive to any knol they create.

Knol is live here.