Earlier this week, we started inviting a selected group of people to try a new, free tool that we are calling "knol", which stands for a unit of knowledge. Our goal is to encourage people who know a particular subject to write an authoritative article about it. The tool is still in development and this is just the first phase of testing. For now, using it is by invitation only. But we wanted to share with everyone the basic premises and goals behind this project.
Up to now, Google has won because it is the best way to navigate *other* people's information on the net. Search, reader, Gmail, even maps are all tools to find the best information that others provide on the web. Google Books starts going in a new direction, where Google becomes the repository of information, which already makes me nervous. You can expect that Google Books is likely to be ranked ahead of Gutenberg in searches, for instance. That's not good, because the others might be *better* sources.
Knol is a whole other level: Google becomes the producer of information.
And one can expect that Google's search will privilege it's own content... from that same blog post:
A knol on a particular topic is meant to be the first thing someone who searches for this topic for the first time will want to read.
That's bad, bad news for how the Google manages knowledge finding & distribution, I think. It puts them in a conflict of interest; exactly the conflict of interest (search engines sending you to information based on where they want to send you, not where you want to go) that Google shunned to become to kings of search.
I don't know if they have addressed this conflict of interest yet -- does anyone have any info? Here's what they say in the article:
Our job in Search Quality will be to rank the knols appropriately when they appear in Google search results. We are quite experienced with ranking web pages, and we feel confident that we will be up to the challenge. We are very excited by the potential to substantially increase the dissemination of knowledg
That's some wishy-washy language. What does "appropriately" mean? "So that we will get the most amount of traffic?"
Follow Hugh McGuire on Twitter: www.twitter.com/hughmcguire