You can run a search on Google for virtually any topic and you are bound to find an entry from Wikipedia in the top search results returned. Google has no doubt noticed that fact as well. While Google started as a content aggregator that simply indexed pages, ranked them according to relevance and let other people handle the content, it has since begun to move into the content hosting side of things with acquisitions like YouTube.
Some may recall that when About.com was put on the auction block by PRIMEDIA there were some heavy hitters looking to gobble up the massive About.com property -- Google included. While there are many reasons why Google didn’t end up walking away with the property as part of its Internet empire, sources close to the sale tell DailyTech that it wasn’t all because Google wasn’t willing to pony up the massive asking price that The New York Times ended up paying for About.com.
Rather, executives at About.com got wind that Google was interested in possibly changing the entire foundation that About.com was built on, the writers that generate information based on specific topics called guides. Google considered a move from the Guide model to a wiki style where anyone can write about anything model. That would have likely ended up leaving all 500 some odd About.com Guides jobless.
The notion sounds a lot like the Knol service Google announced yesterday.
Google’s Knol services is, at its core, a free tool that allows anyone to write content on anything and choose to place Google Adsense ads on their Knol pages. Google says that it will split the ad revenue the page generates with the page author.
The rub for many with the thought of the Knol service is that it appears to be a conflict of interest for Google. When the company sends massive amounts of traffic to sites like Wikipedia for a given topic that has Knol pages as well, some don’t trust Google to rank pages fairly.
Google’s Knol model will also have a strong community to it with people able to leave comments about a Knol page. Google doesn’t plan to verify information on Knol pages for accuracy and says in the Google blog that it expects that not all Knol pages will be of high quality.
To many the thought of being paid for contributing to a community based wiki-like network will be compelling and easily sway them from the non-paying Wikipedia model good or bad. Others will argue, there is nothing wrong with being paid for your work.