Google preparing Wikipedia rival

14 Dec 2007

Google is beta testing a new free tool that will compete with Wikipedia as an authoritative information resource.

This week a select group of people were invited to test the tool, called ‘knol’, which stands for a unit of knowledge, said Google vice-president of engineering, Udi Manber, in his blog.

The goal is to encourage people who know a particular subject to write an authoritative article about it, with the idea being to highlight authors.

“Books have authors’ names right on the cover, news articles have bylines, scientific articles always have authors but somehow the web evolved without a strong standard to keep authors names highlighted. We believe that knowing who wrote what will significantly help users make better use of web content,” said Manber.

Google will provide easy-to-use tools for writing and editing the material and provide free hosting of the content, leaving the writers to focus on the content.

‘Knol’ is the name of the project and also the term that will be used for each article.

“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. The goal is for knols to cover all topics, from scientific concepts, to medical information, from geographical and historical, to entertainment, from product information, to how-to-fix-it instructions,” said Manber.

Google does not intend to edit the material in any way or endorse the content. “All editorial responsibilities and control will rest with the authors,” Manber revealed. “We hope that knols will include the opinions and points of view of the authors who will put their reputation on the line. Anyone will be free to write. For many topics, there will likely be competing knols on the same subject.”

Knols will feature the ability for readers to post reviews, ratings, comments, questions, edits and additional content. Authors will be given the option to include ads with the knol if they wish.

Knols will be available to other search engines, Manber said.

By Niall Byrne