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Wikipedia Founder To Google: Bring Knol On

After proving itself the brand to beat for search, email, maps and a stock of other applications, now Google is developing “knol," a community-built encyclopedia that highlights the authors behind the entries. That emphasis, however, differentiates the knol project from the ubiquitous online encyclopedia Wikipedia by putting the emphasis on the author’s point of view -- something Wikipedia strives to avoid.

After proving itself the brand to beat for search, email, maps and a stock of other applications, now Google is developing “knol”, a community-built encyclopedia that highlights the authors behind the entries. That emphasis, however, differentiates the knol project from the ubiquitous online encyclopedia Wikipedia by putting the emphasis on the author’s point of view -- something Wikipedia strives to avoid.

Knol, which Google calls a unit of knowledge, is currently in beta mode, and Google’s vice president of engineering Udi Manber, who posted an entry on the company’s official blog about the project, did not reveal when knol will be open to everyone. Calls to Google were not returned. Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, said he’s excited about knol and not at all worried about Google entering the Web encyclopedia game.

“To me, the system sounds a lot more like Yahoo Answers than what we do. It doesn’t strike me as particularly similar to what we’re doing at all,” Wales said. “Of course it’s a much better story to posit it as Google vs. Wikipedia.” Wales said what really has him excited is the screenshot posted on Google’s blog, which shows the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. “We’re really excited because that’s a really positive development for free culture,” he said. “If it’s true.” Asked if he’d use knol as an information source, Wales responds with enthusiasm. “Oh sure, if it’s good,” he said. “I like stuff that’s good.”

Google said it will provide editing tools to allow for revisions and will introduce a rating system in order to weed out the bad information from the good. Highly ranked entries will receive preferred page ranking from Google, although the company claims it will not be involved with the editing of entries.

"Our goal is to encourage people who know a particular subject to write an authoritative article about it," Manber wrote in the post. " We do not want to build a walled garden of content; we want to disseminate it as widely as possible."

Along with the emphasis on the author, the knol project differs from Wikipedia in that a single person contributes an entry, unlike the community-based Wikipedia. Authors can monetize those pages and share in the profits, another thing Wikipedia (as yet) has not done. “It’s competitive -- that’s very different from the collaborative Wiki model,” Wales noted.

The buzz on the Web seems focused around the viability of knoll dethroning Wikipedia, which, with 8.2 million articles written in more than 200 different languages, isn’t exactly hurting for content -- or participants. Anytime Google makes an announcement, the Web listens. The big question asked of knol might be: Will anyone read on?

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