Knol

Knol

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Knol is a Google
Google
Google Inc. is an American multinational public corporation invested in Internet search, cloud computing, and advertising technologies. Google hosts and develops a number of Internet-based services and products, and generates profit primarily from advertising through its AdWords program...

 project that aims to include user-written articles on a range of topics. The project was led by Udi Manber
Udi Manber
Udi Manber is an Israeli computer scientist. He is one of the authors of agrep and GLIMPSE. As of April 2008, he is employed by Google as one of their vice presidents of engineering.-Biography:...

 of Google, announced December 13, 2007, and was opened in beta to the public on July 23, 2008 with a few hundred articles mostly in the health
Health
Health is the level of functional or metabolic efficiency of a living being. In humans, it is the general condition of a person's mind, body and spirit, usually meaning to be free from illness, injury or pain...

 and medical field.
Knol has no policies regarding sources or neutrality. Some Knol pages are opinion papers of one or more authors, and others describe products for sale. Some articles are how-to articles or explain product use. Other people can post comments below an article, such as to refute opinions or reject product claims. On November 22, 2011, Google announced that Knol would be closed on April 30, 2012 and all content would be deleted by October 1, 2012.

On January 16, 2009, Google announced that Knol had grown to 100,000 articles, and users from 197 countries visit Knol on an average day. Since then, the Public Library of Science (PLoS) Currents: Influenza and the Harvard University-sponsored forum for Healthcare Information Technology (HIT) Platform have utilized Knol-based collections for rapid exchange of research.

The term knol, which Google defines as a "unit of knowledge", refers to both the project and an article in the project. Several experts see Knol as Google's attempt to compete with Wikipedia
Wikipedia
Wikipedia is a free, web-based, collaborative, multilingual encyclopedia project supported by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation. Its 20 million articles have been written collaboratively by volunteers around the world. Almost all of its articles can be edited by anyone with access to the site,...

, while others point out the differences between the projects.

Content


Knol pages are "meant to be the first thing someone who searches for this topic for the first time will want to read", according to Udi Manber.
Any contributors can create (and own) new Knol articles, and there can be multiple articles on the same topic, each written by a different author. Pundits have consistently decried the hundreds of repetitive entries that result from this system. Because multiple articles can have the same title, readers find a topic by searching, rather than just by title. The authors have an option to allow their articles to be edited by the public, to make them editable only to co-authors or to make them closed entirely.

Knol has a content policy describing topics unacceptable for the project. Relevant nudity is allowed (in most countries), but pornography
Pornography
Pornography or porn is the explicit portrayal of sexual subject matter for the purposes of sexual arousal and erotic satisfaction.Pornography may use any of a variety of media, ranging from books, magazines, postcards, photos, sculpture, drawing, painting, animation, sound recording, film, video,...

, commercial or otherwise, is forbidden. Also forbidden is discriminatory or violent content. In 2008 Google began promoting Knols as a forum for debate.

Content designed to promote businesses, products or services is allowed, but articles devoid of substantive content and created solely to generate ad revenue are not. Authors may also choose to include ads from Google's AdSense
AdSense
Google AdSense which is a program run by Google Inc. allows publishers in the Google Network of content sites to automatically serve text, image, video, and rich media adverts that are targeted to site content and audience. These adverts are administered, sorted, and maintained by Google, and they...

 to their pages. This profit-sharing has been criticized as incentivizing self-promotion or spam.

Process


All contributors to the Knol project must sign in first with a Google account and are supposed to state their real names. If permission is given, Google will check the veracity of the name information by credit card or phone (currently only for users residing in the US). Google "[believes] that knowing who wrote what will significantly help users make better use of web content", and it hopes that "knols will include the opinions and points of view of the authors who will put their reputation on the line".

Readers with Google accounts may rate, comment on, or suggest edits to the articles, in the style of comments after a blog entry. When the project was announced, Manber said that "Google will not serve as an editor in any way, and will not bless any content. All editorial responsibilities and control will rest with the authors."

All contributions are licensed by default under the Creative Commons
Creative Commons
Creative Commons is a non-profit organization headquartered in Mountain View, California, United States devoted to expanding the range of creative works available for others to build upon legally and to share. The organization has released several copyright-licenses known as Creative Commons...

 CC-BY-3.0 license (which allows anyone to reuse the material as long as the original author is named), but authors may choose the CC-BY-NC-3.0 license (which prohibits commercial reuse) or traditional all rights reserved copyright
Copyright
Copyright is a legal concept, enacted by most governments, giving the creator of an original work exclusive rights to it, usually for a limited time...

 protections instead.

Knol employs "nofollow
Nofollow
nofollow is a value that can be assigned to the rel attribute of an HTML a element to instruct some search engines that a hyperlink should not influence the link target's ranking in the search engine's index...

" outgoing links, using an HTML
HTML
HyperText Markup Language is the predominant markup language for web pages. HTML elements are the basic building-blocks of webpages....

 directive to prevent links in its articles from influencing search engine rankings.

Competition


Knol has been described both as a rival to encyclopedia sites such as Wikipedia
Wikipedia
Wikipedia is a free, web-based, collaborative, multilingual encyclopedia project supported by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation. Its 20 million articles have been written collaboratively by volunteers around the world. Almost all of its articles can be edited by anyone with access to the site,...

, Citizendium
Citizendium
Citizendium is an English-language wiki-based free encyclopedia project launched by Larry Sanger, who co-founded Wikipedia in 2001....

, and Scholarpedia
Scholarpedia
Scholarpedia is an English-language online wiki-based encyclopedia that uses the same MediaWiki software as Wikipedia, but has features more commonly associated with open-access online academic journals....

 and as a complement to Wikipedia, offering a different format that addresses many of Wikipedia's shortcomings. The non-profit Wikimedia Foundation
Wikimedia Foundation
Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. is an American non-profit charitable organization headquartered in San Francisco, California, United States, and organized under the laws of the state of Florida, where it was initially based...

, which owns the name Wikipedia and the servers hosting the Wikipedia projects, welcomed the Google Knol initiative saying that "The more good free content
Free content
Free content, or free information, is any kind of functional work, artwork, or other creative content that meets the definition of a free cultural work...

, the better for the world." While Wikipedia articles are written collectively under a "neutral point of view" policy, Knol will highlight personal expertise by emphasizing authorship and, like articles provided on Squidoo
Squidoo
Squidoo is a community website that allows users to create pages for subjects of interest. Squidoo had 1.5 million hand-built lenses .-History:Development on Squidoo started in 2005, launching a beta testing period in October of that year...

, HubPages
HubPages
HubPages is a website designed around sharing advertising revenue for user-generated articles and other content on specific subjects.- History :...

, and Helium.com
Helium.com
Helium.com, Inc. is a website where active writers are paid for contributing articles, and visitors can read these articles for free. User generated content in a given title is rated up or down by other writers in a form of peer review system. As with social news sites like Digg or Reddit, user...

, Knol pages will contain the personal opinions of the author.

Despite the official Wikimedia response and the differences in format, former Wikimedia Foundation
Wikimedia Foundation
Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. is an American non-profit charitable organization headquartered in San Francisco, California, United States, and organized under the laws of the state of Florida, where it was initially based...

 chair Florence Devouard
Florence Devouard
Florence Jacqueline Sylvie Devouard, née Nibart was the Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation between October 2006 and July 2008, succeeding Jimmy Wales....

 expressed concern over Knol's potential threat to Wikipedia in terms of the competition it would create. After Knol's beta launch, Google product manager Cedric Dupont responded to the idea that Google intended Knol to be a "Wikipedia killer" by saying, “Google is very happy with Wikipedia being so successful. Anyone who tries to kill them would hurt us.” The New York Times noted similarities in design between Knol and Wikipedia, such as use of the same font
Font
In typography, a font is traditionally defined as a quantity of sorts composing a complete character set of a single size and style of a particular typeface...

. Dupont responded that the use was simply a coincidence as it is a commonly used font.

Because of Knol's format, some have said Knol will be more like About.com
About.com
About.com is an online source for original information and advice. It is written in English, and is aimed primarily at North Americans. It is owned by The New York Times Company....

 than Wikipedia. According to Wolfgang Hansson, a writer at DailyTech
DailyTech
DailyTech is an online daily publication of technology news, founded by ex-AnandTech editor Kristopher Kubicki on January 1, 2006. The site features a prominent "comments" section that acts as the forums for the publication. Users are able to moderate or respond to each post, a template the editor...

, Knol may have been planned for About.com originally when it was up for acquisition. Hansson reported that several sources close to the sale said Google was planning to acquire About.com, but the executives at About.com learned Google was planning to move from About.com's model to a wiki-style model. That would have meant layoffs for all 500 or so "Guides" at About.com.

Conflict of interest


There has been debate whether Google search results can remain neutral
Neutrality (philosophy)
Neutrality is the absence of declared bias. In an argument, a neutral person will not choose a side.A Neutral country maintains political neutrality, a related but distinct concept.-What neutrality is not:...

 because of possible conflict of interest. According to Danny Sullivan, the editor of Search Engine Land, "Google’s goal of making Knol pages easy to find on search engines could conflict with its need to remain unbiased." Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, raised similar concerns: "At the end of the day, there's a fundamental conflict between the business Google is in and its social goals. What you're seeing here, slowly, is Google embracing an advertising-driven model, in which money will have a greater impact on what people have ready access to." As a response to such concerns it has been pointed out that Google already hosts large amounts of content in sites like Google Sites
Google Sites
Google Sites is a structured wiki- and web page-creation tool offered by Google as part of the Google Apps Productivity suite.- History :Google Sites started out as JotSpot, the name and sole product of a software company that offered enterprise social software. It was targeted mainly at...

, YouTube
YouTube
YouTube is a video-sharing website, created by three former PayPal employees in February 2005, on which users can upload, view and share videos....

, Blogger
Blogger (service)
Blogger is a blog-publishing service that allows private or multi-user blogs with time-stamped entries. It was created by Pyra Labs, which was bought by Google in 2003. Generally, the blogs are hosted by Google at a subdomain of blogspot.com. Up until May 1, 2010 Blogger allowed users to publish...

 and Google Groups
Google Groups
Google Groups is a service from Google Inc. that supports discussion groups, including many Usenet newsgroups, based on common interests. The service was started in 1995 as Deja News, and was transitioned to Google Groups after a February 2001 buyout....

 and that there is no significant difference in this case. Nicholas G. Carr
Nicholas G. Carr
Nicholas George Carr is an American writer who has published books and articles on technology, business, and culture. His book The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains was a finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction.-Career:Carr originally came to prominence with the...

, a frequent technology commentator, dismissed predictions of Google manipulating results saying that Google is hoping the most popular Knol pages will rise naturally through the search results, challenging Wikipedia and providing another area of content that can carry Google ads.

Since its announcement in December 2007, there has also been speculation on Google's motives and its position as a producer of content rather than as an organizer. The Guardian
The Guardian
The Guardian, formerly known as The Manchester Guardian , is a British national daily newspaper in the Berliner format...

s Jack Schofield
Jack Schofield
Jack Schofield is a British technology journalist and former Computer Editor for The Guardian newspaper, for whom he started writing a weekly computer column in 1983. He joined the staff to launch the newspaper's computer section in 1985...

argued that "Knol represents an attack on the media industry in general."

External links