Once known as one of the strongest and beneficial friendships on the Web between two hugely popular and recognized giants is today going to turn out into an Internet battle second to none.
It is no secret on Web that Google was in love with Wikipedia over the past years turning this small and free encyclopedia project into one of the most visited sites on Web today with over 220 million unique visitors per month. It is believed that at least 85% of the total monthly traffic to Wikipedia is sent to by Google. One solid argument in support of that thesis can be the fact every second article on Wikipedia is being ranked among the first, if not the first, results in Google’s SERPs resulting in unprecedented organic traffic and participation.
It is also well known fact that Google wished they had the chance to acquire Wikipedia and if it was possible it’s believed they could have done this even years ago. Due to the non-profit policy and structure Wikipedia is built upon it provided no legal pathway to such deal for Google to snatch the site in its early days.
Basically one can conclude that Google has always liked the idea and concept upon which Wikipedia is built up and since, due to obvious reasons, they were not able to buy the site they seem today are up to an idea dangerously similar to the Wikipedia and are obviously taking on the free encyclopedia.
News broke late yesterday that Google is in preparation to launch a new site called Knol to create a new user generated authoritative online knowledgebase of virtually everything.
Normally we would not pay attention on such type of news where a large-scale corporation is trying to copy/cat an already popular and established business model (concept) that did not turn into a large-scale company itself. This is happening all the time and is part of the modern capitalism except we found a couple of strategic facts that provoked us to express our opinion.
First of all the mythical authority and popularity of Wikipedia seems to be under attack and unlike any of the other attempts encountered before this time it is Google, a company that is possessing a higher degree of chance to make it happen, undermining Wikipedia despite its huge popularity and idealistic approach today.
A couple of weeks ago we have written an in-depth analysis how yet another mythical site Dmoz.org has fallen down and is on its half way to totally disintegrate itself and the only reason behind this trend we have found is the voluntary approach and principle the site relied ever since – almost 10 years of existence.
We think the same problem is endangering Wikipedia too and perhaps it is just matter of time we witness how the hugely popular free encyclopedia today will some day in the future start disintegrating the same way it happened to Dmoz.org due to the same reason – it hugely relies on and is heavily dependant upon the voluntary principle and the contribution of thousands of skilled and knowledgeable individuals. However we all know there is no free lunch, at least not in America. And once Wikipedia has its mythical image, today everyone wants to be associated with, lost and is no longer passing authority and respect on to its free knowledgeable contributors the free encyclopedia will then most likely start disintegrating and what’s today known to be an authoritative and high-quality knowledge data base will then become one of the biggest repository of low-quality and link rich articles of controversial and objectable information on the Web. Pretty much the same has already happened to Dmoz.org. The less the Wikipedia volunteers become interested to keep contributing their time and knowledge to the free site while fighting with an ever growing army of spammers and corporate PRs the more the low-quality and less authoritative information on the Wikipedia will grow to and that process appears unavoidable.
This is what Google seems to be up to and is looking forward to change. Google wants to compensate those knowledgeable contributors on a long term run that way avoid a potential crash in the future, which is unavoidable for every free-based service on the planet that had the luck to grow out of size.
Having more than $10 billion in annual sales (most of it represents pure profit), and willingness to share that money with these knowledgeable people around the globe, as well as relying on more than 500 million unique visitors per month Google seems to be on the right track to achieve what Wikipedia will most likely fail at.
Otherwise Wikipedia is a greater idea than Google itself but anything the size and ambitious of Wikipedia today does require an enormous amount of resources to keep alive, under control and effectively working for the future. Wikipedia has been trying to raise money for a long time now with no viable success. On the other hand, Google has already these resources in place.
Google has already said that Knol results will be in Google’s index, presumably on the first page, and very possibly at the top: “Our job in Search Quality will be to rank the knols appropriately when they appear in Google search results.” Google wants Knol to be an authoritative page: “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” and that’s already a direct challenge to Wikipedia.
If Wikipedia is being replaced in the first top results on Google with pages from Knol respectively, Wikipedia traffic will definitely decrease, and possibly as a consequence so will broader participation on Wikipedia.
Will Knol be the answer of the Web of Knowledge everybody is looking for? We do not know but one is for sure today it is going to hurt Wikipedia and not the ordinary user of the aggregated knowledge base Wikipedia is. The entire army of both users and contributors will possibly move to Knol, for longer, or at least until Google finds ways to pay for the knowledge aggregation and its contributors.
Other companies that will eventually get hurt are as follows: Freebase, About.com, Wikia, Mahalo and Squidoo.
Below is a screenshot of the Knol’s reference page and how it would eventually look like:
[ http://www.google.com/help/knol_screenshot.html ]
[ http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2007/12/encouraging-people-to-contribute.html ]
[ http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/12/13/google-preparing-to-launch-game-changing-wikipedia-meets-squidoo-project/ ]
[ http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/12/14/google-knol-a-step-too-far/ ]
[ http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/knol_project_google_experiment.php ]
[ http://www.webware.com/8301-1_109-9834175-2.html?part=rss&tag=feed&subj=Webware ]
[ http://searchengineland.com/071213-213400.php ]
[ http://www.news.com/Google-develops-Wikipedia-rival/2100-1038_3-6222872.html ]
[ http://www.micropersuasion.com/2007/12/wikipedia-and-w.html ]