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The New York Times reports that:

SAN FRANCISCO â Google is testing a new Web service intended to become a repository of knowledge from experts on various topics, one that could turn into a competitor to Wikipedia and other sites.Skip to next paragraph
Google Blog: Encouraging People to Contribute Knowledge

If it attracts a following, the service could accelerate Googleâs transformation from a search engine into a company that helps create and publish Web content. Some critics said that shift could compromise Googleâs objectivity in presenting search results.

The service, called Knol, which is short for knowledge, would allow people to create Web pages on any topic. It is designed to include features that permit readers to submit comments, rate pages and suggest changes. However, unlike Wikipedia, which allows anyone to edit an entry, only the author of a âknol,â as the pages in the service would be called, would be allowed to edit. Different authors could have competing pages on the same topic.

Google said that a main idea behind the project was to bring attention to authors who have expertise on a particular topic.

âSomehow the Web evolved without a strong standard to keep authorsâ names highlighted,â Udi Manber, vice president for engineering at Google, wrote in an announcement of the test Thursday evening on a Google corporate blog. âWe believe that knowing who wrote what will significantly help users make better use of Web content.â

Mr. Manber said the goal of Knol was to cover all topics, from science to medicine to history, and for the articles to become âthe first thing someone who searches for this topic for the first time will want to read.â

That is often the role played by Wikipedia pages, which frequently turn up at or near the top of results presented by Google and other search engines.

âI think Google is looking at the growth of sites like Wikipedia, that aggregate knowledge, and feels it has to play in that space,â said Danny Sullivan, a search expert and editor of the Web site Search Engine Land.

Several other services have taken different approaches in their efforts to become repositories of knowledge on various topics. They include Yahoo Answers, Squidoo, Mahalo and About.com, which is owned by The New York Times Company.

Despite the existence of these services, as well as countless free tools for experts and ordinary people alike to share what they know online, Mr. Manber said Google thought many people who possessed useful knowledge did not publish it âbecause it is not easy enough to do that.â

Google declined to make Mr. Manber or anyone else available to discuss Knol, saying the project was an experiment that like many Google tests, might never be opened to the public.

While many technology analysts and bloggers noted that Knol appeared to be a direct competitor to Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, that siteâs founder, shrugged off the potential challenge.

Mr. Wales said that Googleâs service would encourage competing, opinionated articles on any topic, whereas Wikipedia strived for objectivity and had a single article per topic that represented the collective knowledge of its authors.

âIâm looking forward to seeing what it ends up looking like,â Mr. Wales said.

Knol and Wikipedia would be different in other ways. While Wikipedia is a not-for-profit and ad-free endeavor, Knol has a more commercial bent: Authors could choose to have Google place ads on their pages and would get part of the revenue.

âAt some point, Google crosses the line, where they are not only a search engine, but also a content provider,â Mr. Sullivan said. Technically speaking, he said, authors, not Google, would create Knol pages. âBut it matters how it appears,â he said. âI do a search on Google, I go to some place that Google hosts and I also find Google ads.â

Whatâs more, Mr. Sullivan said, Googleâs goal of making Knol pages easy to find on search engines could conflict with its need to remain unbiased. Google already carries content generated by users in a variety of services, including YouTube, the photo storage site Picasa and Blogger.

That would be so cool.

Hopefully Google will make an operating System.

Google will now own the internet.

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Hmmm, sounds pretty snazy, I'll admit. It strikes me a little like blogs, though, but more centralised and less personal. Still if and when it comes out I'd imagine that Knol will be a busy place indeed. B)The name's pretty damned catchy too, actually. Sure, Wikipedia has a lot of focus on facts rather than opinions, but Knol's a great little name that's already stuck in my head. :rolleyes:

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I'm not surprised at all by this. Google has been and is continuing to take every service offered online that they can get their hands on and make their best attempt to improve on the previous examples. As far as I'm concerned as long as google keeps things free, high quality, and easy to use I say more power to em. I'm interested to see if they can get this idea to gain enough strength to take on wikipedia but either way it'll be a useful tool.

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It will probably be more precise than Wikipedia, but a lot of time will be required in order for it to reach such a significant amount of articles. On the brighter, I definitely prefer Google's design over Wikipedia's. We'll see what comes out of this, but I am pretty sure this will increase the Internet's overall value :rolleyes:

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