updated 09:25 am EST, Fri December 14, 2007
Google today revealed Knol, the company's own alternative to open online encyclopedias. Refering to entries as "knols" (knowledge units) rather than the "wikis" of Wikipedia, the service will share the same open, user-submitted approach to information but will emphasize the credibility sometimes lacking in such sites. Authors can be named for each article, with detailed references at the bottom; visitors can also rate articles to praise or criticize the effort involved. Users with questions will similarly have an opportunity to ask questions of the author as well as make Wikipedia-like edits to a text if they want to make an addition or edit the text.
A unique element of Knol is its ad system, Google says. While ads will be strictly optional, an author can choose to have context-sensitive AdSense ads appear on their article and will collect some of the revenue from each ad, potentially serving as a source of income for active and popular authors.
The system will not be moderated by Google itself and will also be freely accessible outside of the official Knol site. Knols will appear in general Google search results with ratings intact, and will also be discoverable through any other search engine. "We do not want to build a walled garden of content," the company explains.
Google Knol is currently available only as part of an invitation-based system. The developer plans to make the service completely free for the public once testing is finished, though no indication has been given as to when the company expects a full release.