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Google Knol: Competitors Respond & Time To Limit The Aggregators?
Last week, our Google Knol – Google’s Play To Aggregate Knowledge Pages
article covered the Wikipedia-like
Google Knol product that Google is testing and may release in a few months.
In that article, I noted how Knol was aimed squarely at services like Wikipedia,
Squidoo. Since them, some of those players have responded to the Google
challenge. Below, a look at what they are saying, as well as the complicated
issues when everyone wants a web site that ranks for everything — including
Knol seems most like Seth Godin’s Squidoo site. In Seth’s response to the
Knol announcement, he illustrates well how closely related the two seem to be by
taking the example Knol page on insomnia that Google
put out and
reproducing it on Squidoo.
The Google page was Creative Commons licensed to allow reproduction, so
there’s no harm, no foul in doing this. Of course, Knol authors will not be
required to license out their content for reuse, to my understanding, so Squidoo
won’t be able to pull this trick all the time.
Creating that page really highlights how bizarre the Google Knol move is, at
least on the face of what Google says versus how it acts.
Google has been pretty vocal in the past that it doesn’t want to put out
copy-cat products. Google products are supposed to go beyond the
state-of-the-art and offer something unique that isn’t in the marketplace. And
when Knol was announced, it was explained to me that it would be providing a
unique tool. Yet, clearly Knol isn’t so unique that it can’t be reproduced on
tries to put a positive spin on new competitor Google coming into his space:
Then, a funny thing happened: I started getting notes of congratulations.
Of all the business models and all the internet ideas to jump on, Google had
chosen ours. There were hundreds of neat ideas out there, but they picked
That goes a long way to legitimize the original idea. It brings new users
into the space. It makes it easier to find partners who want to exploit this
‘new’ idea. It allows room for creativity. It’s not about whether or not
someone should be doing this. It’s about which place they want to do it in.
That’s a huge change.
Just as the acquisition of blogger led to an explosion in blogging
software, Google’s Knol makes the space pioneered by Squidoo a lot more
attractive. Apparently, the best thing that can happen to you if you
pick Google as a platform is that they mimic you.
Well, I don’t know that I’d be so positive. The folks at Technorati seem to
have been struggling lately. Yet two years
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:
And a lot of the credit, he says, goes to Google. "I no longer have to
explain what a blog is," he says. "It’s absolutely an easier business discussion
As I covered earlier, Squidoo
already suffered a
major blow when Google slapped it out of some rankings. And while Google is
likely to suffer similar spam problems, a Google knowledge base has a huge
advantage over Squidoo in being tied to the Google brand.
While it started as a supposed search engine, you only need to look at pages
like this one about Google
Analytics to understand that Mahalo is developing into a destination content
site, rather than a search engine that points outbound. That page is an
aggregation of knowledge about Google Analytics, which Mahalo founder Jason
Calacanis would like to see ranking number one on Google for those words in the
same way this
page at Mahalo ranks for
cheap hotel room.
That puts him in direct conflict with Squidoo, which would also like to rank
tops for topics far and wide. Plus, Wikipedia is already the leader in actually
doing this. I asked him if Google Knol getting into the space made him feel
vindicated or scared. In between dealing with a missing passport, Jason
Knol seems more like Wikipedia than Mahalo. Long articles etc. So, we might
link to it over/with Wikipedia.
Also, maybe we post our "guides" to Knol and get 2x the earnings? Will you
post your blog posts to it? Google our publisher?!
As I’ve already explained, I think Mahalo indeed has long articles and is
heading down a path that makes it more akin to Wikipedia than a regular search
engine, so I do think Knol is a threat. But Jason does raise an interesting
point — potentially, he could publish on Knol, as well. The downside, of
course, is that duplicate content issues could cause Mahalo to lose traffic from
search engines, if Knol is seen as the more "primary" source. In addition,
anyone publishing on Knol is going to be in a take-it-or-leave it position over
how much ad revenue Google wants to share. Many would want more control
John Battelle pinged Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales,
who gave an answer
similar to Seth and Jason:
Sounds more like Yahoo Answers than Wikipedia to me. It is not a
collaborative tool, it is a competitive tool.
"We hope that knols will include the opinions and points of view of the
authors who will put their reputation on the line. Anyone will be free to
write. For many topics, there will likely be competing knols on the same
subject. Competition of ideas is a good thing."
Very different from a wiki, and not likely to generate much of quality.
To be clear, Google has very much said to me that Knol is a collaborative
tool. While there is one featured author, others can participate with that
author’s permission. In terms of quality, I have to laugh along with some of
those commenting on John’s blog that just because a sole author might be
involved, Wikipedia would have better quality by involving many people.
The man whose website is an encyclopedia that can be edited by any idiot or
liar says that knol is "not likely to generate much of quality"? I mean, fair
play to Wikipedia it is mostly very good, but it strikes me as more than a
little arrogant to dismiss knol, as if his particular system for user-generated
content is the only one that might work.
As Michael Arrington
points out today at TechCrunch, an interesting twist will be if Wikipedia
content — which can also be repurposed with appropriate credit — starts
showing up on Knol. That could help Wikipedia’s mission of disseminating
information, though it doesn’t help Wikipedia itself earn money. But then again,
it might also see Google taking action against its own pages in the same way it
seemed to attack
Answers.com earlier this year.
Aggregators: Can There Be Only One?
In my initial article on Knol, I expressed concern that so many knowledge
aggregation sites trying to enjoy Wikipedia-like success potentially could push
out from the top search results the independent, original content sources that
they depend on.
Do we really need a dozen or more Wikipedia clones? Do we really want this as
our search results:
Many I know have a love-hate relationship with Wikipedia. We love it because
it really is often useful. We hate it because it seems to show up in every
search result (Nick Carr today offers a
at this today). I constantly get laughs when I remark that Wikipedia is required
by law to be in the top listings for any search on Google. But I think we also
tolerate this because of its non-profit nature.
In contrast, I see little reason to love the fact that Seth Godin has decided
to make money by creating a web site that aims to rank well for everything.
Ditto Jason Calacanis and Mahalo. That’s especially so when both of them have
been dismissive of SEO or anti-SEO in the past (for Seth, see
here in 2004 and
here in 2005.
For Jason, see here).
To quote Seth from 2004:
SEOs are not a shortcut to success, at least not for 99% of the companies out
there. You won’t win by fooling Google into listing you first for a common
search term. You will win once you figure out the simple mechanics of turning
strangers into friends and friends into customers.
Sorry, Seth — but from where I sit, Squidoo seems far less about turning
strangers into friends and far more about trying to get a lot of traffic from
search engines. And Jason, for all you’ve slammed against the SEO industry,
you’ve created the ultimate SEO monster.
Now add into it this mix the fact that Google itself wants some SEO love?
Seriously — do we really need Google to be competing against other sites in
its own search listings? If Knol is going to launch, dare I suggest this? Make a
special unit at the top of the page for a single Wikipedia link and then use
some type of sitelinks
style display to point to other aggregator sites such as Knol, Mahalo,
Squidoo, or whatever. Somehow, someway, consolidate these types of sites and
protect the variety and originality of core search results.
Postscript: Knol – Numbers to Lend Context to Google’s Announcement from Hitwise has some nice comparative stats on the popularity of the various knowledge sites.