Friday, December 14, 2007

Google Wikipedia-killer in beta

According to the New York Times, Google is developing a web-publishing platform that sounds a lot like Wikipedia.

The project, which is in an invitation-only beta stage, lets users create clean-looking Web pages with their photo and write entries on, for example, insomnia. Those entries are called "knols" for "unit of knowledge," Google said.

The key difference from Google’s offering and Wikipedia will be that individual authors will receive credit for their material.

Google asserts that the Web's development so far has neglected the importance of the bylined author.

"We believe that knowing who wrote what will significantly help users make better use of web content," wrote Udi Manber, vice president of engineering, on the official Google blog

Additionally, users won’t be able to edit each other’s entries.

Based on that last fact, I don’t see how this service is going to rival Wikipedia’s 7 million articles. At this point in the history of the web, I’m surprised that a company as savvy as Google would ignore the clear benefits of distributed publishing. At best, the service will probably get a few thousand decent articles on niche topics.

Although I believe Google has a point in noting the neglect of attribution for web content, I can’t see how they’re going to succeed when they depend on individual contributors to provide and edit all of their own content. I just don’t think that there is that much individual expertise out there that will be willing to put in the time to write quality articles for the service.

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