Google Knol Gets an F

August 12, 2009

TechCrunch published “Poor Google Knol Has Gone from a Wikipedia Killer to a Craigslist Wannabe” by Erick Schonfeld and elicited a happy quack from the addled goose. Mr. Schonfeld points out that Google’s Knol (a unit of knowledge in Google speak) is a traffic magnet without much oomph. For me the killer statement in the write up was:

Sadly, Knol just never panned out. Google should just end its misery, just like it did when it killed other under-performing projects such as Lively and Google Notebooks. Knol will never come close to Wikipedia. It can’t even cut it as a classifieds listing site.

I agree with Mr. Schonfeld’s argument, but there were several thoughts that the write up triggered here in the pond choked with rain water and mine run off.

  1. Perhaps Google allowed resources to flow away from Knol because it was a publishing play on the surface but a test of a method for obtaining content from experts. Authoritative information from an expert is just the Googzilla food that smart algorithms feed upon. Publishing is a hot potato for the Google. Knol is better left as a sideline lest it draw enemy assaults.
  2. Google has a number of similar tests / betas underway. Are these products, or are they trials of key components of a less visible, more potent system? The terms of service and the various developer tools make it possible to shape Knol in interesting ways. Which of these “ways” is the one that Google wishes to encourage?
  3. What happens if Google, not eager users, hook together multiple Google beta services into one cohesive product that delivers and monetizes information? That is a question to which I don’t have an answer.

Google may have another Web Accelerator on its hands. On the other hand, Knol may be a cog in a larger machine. TechCrunch seems to be leaning toward giving the Knol service an F and may toss in a week in the Web detention hall based on performance to date.

Stephen Arnold, August 12, 2009


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