Google steals Yahoo!’s clothes

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When I worked at Yahoo!, Jeff Weiner talked about knowledge search as opposed to information search. Google looked to organise all the world’s information, a logical extension of their expertise in algorithmic search.

Weiner’s vision had a Fitzcarraldo-esque aspect to it: to capture and make searchable all the knowledge in the world. This knowledge could be the details about the property (real estate) market in your town or the history of of an obscure Spaghetti Western film.

Move forward 18 months and Google is taking a similar patch to Weiner’s vision with the launch of Google Knol. Knol is also a unit of knowledge within the service.

From Google’s own blog announcement:

“Our goal is to encourage people who know a particular subject to write an authoritative article about it. … 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.”

It is different to Google’s now defunct Answers product because it is based on a model that highlights individual expertise rather than resident experts or the collective knowledge of Wikipedia.

Readers can add comments, reviews, rankings, and alternative knols on the subject, but cannot directly edit the work of others. And Google is offering another incentive, knol authors can choose to include ads with their offering and collect a cut of the revenue.

The big challenge is the quality of the answers, there is an incentive to develop spam pages with ad links on them, like spam blogs.