As part of Googles expansion into new areas on the web, the search giant has released an open academic project in Google Knol. Live in beta sceptics have said that the project which is aimed at competing directly with Wikipedia, is a way of increasing revenue as Wikipedia entries currently feature so high within Google search results.
With the project aimed at getting people to contribute knowledge it will function very much like the existing Wikipedia, but will address several key floors its rival has been criticised about recently. With Knol entries, authors of articles will build up professional reputations by preventing articles from being edited by participants unknown to the author, and by disallowing multiple contributions to a single topic, both of which differ in Wikipedia.
Google have also stated that they will not serve as an editor and will leave this solely to the discretion of the author of the article. It does mean that different Knols could exist on the same subject whose credibility would directly compete with each other, but Google has stated that this will only lead to more credible articles.
Google will also allow authors to serve adverts on their written pages,
“If an author chooses to include ads, Google will provide the author with substantial revenue share from the proceeds of those ads,” said Udi Manber, Google vice president.
Recent statistics have demonstrated the popularity of free information sites, with Yahoo answers now said to draw 120 million users worldwide. Yahoo Answers, with 400 million Answers is the second most popular education/ reference site behind Wikipedia. Yahoo Answers has however recently attracted criticism regarding the quality of answers it provides, and is said to actively encourage bad research.
The quality of Wikipedia articles has also been scrutinised with several high profile cases demonstrating government institutions editing articles to reflect them in a more positive light.
These criticisms of the top two educational/ reference sites is said to be every teacher’s worst nightmare, and by locking articles to the author Google is certainly attempting to create a more accurate knowledge base. However it is thought that academics wont be willing to contribute to a project where the credibly of competing articles will be judged but the masses. Academics are already very weary where they publish content and I think it remains to be seen whether Google Knol will be a platform that inspires confidence to academic authors.