Knol lets users produce web pages devoted to various subject matter. Udi Manber, VP-engineering, explained on the Google blog: "There are millions of people who possess useful knowledge that they would love to share, and there are billions of people who can benefit from it." Google will not, the company said, act as an editor.
In closed beta
The product doesn't have many users yet. It's in a "closed beta," meaning only those with invites can create pages and those pages aren't yet available publicly. But it has garnered the attention of some smart people in the blogging world.
Danny Sullivan, editor in chief of SearchEngineLand.com and an Ad Age Digital columnist, weighing in on Knol's potential competition, finds that all of those rivals feel Knol validates their businesses and have adopted a not-to-worry attitude. Some, though might do well to worry, he points out: "I don't know that I'd be so positive. The folks at Technorati seem to have been struggling lately. Yet two years ago, we got to read similar positive sounding statements from then CEO David Sifry on how Google Blog Search has validated his model and made it easier for partners to know what Technorati was doing."
Wikipedia, to be sure, is a juggernaut. According to a Hitwise blog post on of Knol, Wikipedia was, during the week of Sec. 8, "the #2 downstream website from Google (after Google Images), receiving 2.13% of the search giant's traffic."
Probably not an 'info-moshpit'
That's a lot to contend with. Nick Carr, pointing out how dominant Wikipedia entries are on the first page of Google results for, well, almost everything, said: "I'm guessing that serving as the front door for a vast ad-less info-moshpit outfitted with open source search tools is not exactly the future that Google has in mind for itself. Enter Knol."
But at Searchblog, John Battelle, in a follow up to his post "Google Takes Aim at Wikipedia, Is Now Officially a Media Company," shot of a note asking Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales about it. Mr. Wales replied: "Sounds more like Yahoo Answers than Wikipedia to me. It is not a collaborative tool, it is a competitive tool."
(For the record, most of Mr. Battelle's commentors were bearish on Google's prospects of competing with Wikipedia.)