Google has officially announced that their Knol product is now open to the public. Over at the Science of the Invisible blog, AJ Cann asks, if it’s worthwhile and really anything “more than extra eyeballs for AdSense.” My response is that of course the whole driving force behind Knol is extra eyeballs for AdSense. That’s what Google does. That’s their MO. To paraphrase the now defunct Fake Steve Jobs, Google’s business model is to drive the price of everything on earth to “free”, everything except one thing that is, small ugly text-based ads, which, conveniently enough, they’ll be the ones selling. So you should never have to ask, is this just a ploy to sell more ads, because with Google, the answer is always going to be “yes”.

That said, there is some merit to the project, and it will be interesting to see if they can get buy-in.
—article continues—

Much of the way it’s set up is a deliberate attempt to address some of the major issues with Wikipedia, the biggest of which is Wikipedia’s inherent hostility toward experts. In the Knol system each article is signed by the author and you can judge for yourself as to their qualifications. Furthermore, the articles are moderated (or uneditable if the author chooses) so useful bits of information won’t be discarded merely because they don’t conform to some obscure rule. And that’s one of the other big pieces here, taking the editing power out of the hands of the rule-obsessed minority, which is my big beef with Wikipedia–that is should strive for quality and knowledge, rather than its current state where following the rules is more important than the content.

We’ll have to wait and see how this plays out, how it affects the overall quality of the material posted. The idea is that if you disagree with someone else’s post and they won’t let you edit it, then you can write your own, leading to multiple entries on the same subject, which readers will be able to rate. This sounds like it could get messy, and I’m waiting to see how easy it is to read when 200 different experts on anime all write their own articles about the same obscure character. You’re losing the Web 2.0-ness of having everyone be an author on the same article and instead replacing it with letting everyone write their own article. Since this is the internet, I’m sure this system is going to lead to a lot of back and forth bickering, flamewars, and attempts to game the system, as Wikipedia has proven how protective people are about their subject areas.

I’m also curious as to how much of a motivating factor Google’s Adshare program (allowing authors to get a cut of ad sales from their articles) will be. Will this put purely volunteer collections out of business? Will people who contribute to these projects be motivated by being paid, or are they doing it for other reasons? Will this just pull in an entirely different set of authors? Definitely worth keeping an eye on…