FT : Google Takes Aim At Wikipedia

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Google has taken direct aim at Wikipedia with a project designed to supplant the collectively produced encyclopedia as the primary source for basic information on the web.  Known as Knol, and currently restricted to a limited test, the service is a highly ambitious attempt to collect and organise “user-generated information” in all fields of knowledge.  The move echoes other Google efforts to transform online behaviour – although some, such as Google Base, designed as an open database to collect items for sale, have failed to catch on widely.  With Google’s service, anyone will eventually be able to write a web page about any topic they want, and have it indexed by Google and other search engines.  Authors will also be able to benefit from any advertising placed on the page.  Google gave few details about how it would rank submissions to highlight the most accurate or useful, but the group said user ratings would be important.

“A Knol on a particular topic is meant to be the first thing someone who searches for this topic for the first time will want to read,” Udi Manber, a Google engineer, wrote on a blog post that announced the project.  That role is often taken by Wikipedia entries, which frequently appear high on Google’s and other search engines’ results, making the collective encyclopedia one of the 10 most-visited sites.  The design of the Google project seeks to address some of the fundamental issues that have hampered the controversial Wikipedia.  Entries in the encyclopedia are anonymous and often lead to heated “edit wars”, as people with rival opinions compete to change items.  By contrast, Google plans to identify its writers and avoid the collective editing process altogether.  “The key idea behind the Knol project is to highlight authors,” Mr Manber said.  He added Google expected rival notes to appear on many topics: “Competition of ideas is a good thing.”  That approach will avoid the “problems of governance that come from trying to run a collaborative community” like Wikipedia, said Larry Sanger, a founder of the website who split with that project over its failure to apply stricter editing policies.

Reference : http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/c366bb70-aa8a-11dc-a779-0000779fd2ac.html

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