This week, Google announced the opening of their new Knol system where people can write articles on their favorite topic. It seems that everyone’s first comparison here is to Wikipedia but it’s not really like Wikipedia.
The idea is that you take a topic you know a lot about and write a Knol, which is just an entry. Knols are different than something like Wikipedia because every Knol has an owner. That owner can choose to allow open modification, or to moderate changes, or to keep full control. Knols will (of course) show Google Ads and an owner can link those ads to their Google Adsense account to get revenue from those ads. Knols are also not exclusive – you can choose to work with an existing Knol author or write your own version of the knol topic. As with everything on the web, the knols will compete for popularity through linkings, etc.
I tried it out and wrote a knol on Java 7 since it’s something I’ve been tracking for a long time. Unfortunately, the knol system seems to be a bit hosed right now as many are finding. If you search on Google, you won’t find this entry. If you search from the Knol home, you also won’t find it. It’s not just me either, there are lots of people complaining about this in the Knol help pages and rightly so – why write it if no one can find it? Of all the people I’d expect to get search right, it would be Google. :)
There are also a large number of comments on the help pages about writing in foreign languages. I’m not sure if Google didn’t anticipate the demand but there seems to be a lot of confusion and not a lot of support for non-English language entries.
I linked my AdSense account to my knol, but it currently says that the process of approval can take up to 2 weeks. I don’t even know what the “review” process entails? Seems to be fairly mystical so far.
In summary, it’s an interesting model. Hard to say whether it will work out or not. So far, I’m a little underwhelmed by the overall experience and not sure how well supported the service is right now.