It has been seven months since my original story on Project Knol, Google’s attempt to compete with Wikipedia. Earlier this week Knol finally went live to the masses.
I have had a chance to explore the service and found that, while it may have been under development for months, there are still some issues that need to be ironed out.
Lack of browsable categories
There seems to be a complete lack of browsable content categories at this point in time. The main page of the site offers a random assortment of knols under the heading “Plain old bag o’ knols”. Google might be trying to hide the fact that there isn’t much content available at this time since, despite there being a working search box at the top of the page, they say, “Who needs a search engine? CTRL+F” under the “Plain old bag” heading. I find this hilarious coming from the largest search engine company in the world.
Buried at the bottom of the page in a tiny font you’ll find a “browse” link that will take you to an unsorted list of fifty knols. At the time of this writing there were seven pages worth of knols available. 350 articles is a far cry from Wikipedia’s nearly 2.5 million but then again it is only the third day.
While writing this blog post it seems that the Knol site is suffering some server problems. The error displayed when attempting to visit the site is “knol pageview limit exceeded”.
This will most likely be resolved quickly but it just goes to show that Google might have pulled the trigger to release the project a bit too soon.
Despite these issues there are some pretty interesting features that set Knol apart from competitor Wikipedia.
Knol authors are be able to verify their identity to help lend credibility to the content they post. You can verify your name by providing your phone number, entering a pin code when an automated system calls your number. Another option is to enter your credit card information so Google can check it against credit bureau databases. Name verification is currently only available to people living in the US.
One of the most talked about features of Knol is the ability for authors to monetize the content they publish by allowing the display of AdSense ads within articles they publish. This can be seen as an incentive to write quality content that could potentially been seen by millions of visitors. So if you have an AdSense account just enter the details and start creating content for fun and profit.
It will be interesting to see if Knol becomes a true competitor to Wikipedia or if it will carve out its own niche on the web. Once the rough edges are smoothed over and more content is added it could become a force to reckon with in the future.