Two titans of the web world, Google and Wikipedia, are shaping for a head-to-head battle of epic proportions, with each preparing new products to directly challenge the other.
Techcrunch reports that Google is get reading to launch a new site called Knol, which will work as a direct competitor to Wikipedia. Knol – a term meaning “unit of knowledge” – will be a user-generated online encyclopaedia, but unlike Wikipedia, users will be unable to update others’ entries. There is likely to be more than one Knol on some topics.
According to Google: “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.” An aspiration that suggests Google is very much hoping Knol will knock Wikipedia off its perch.
And Google has a secret weapon in its armoury that could help it do so – revenue sharing. Unlike Wikipedia, where contributors share their knowledge for free, authors who write for Knol will be able to include a Google ad on an entry they make, providing a concrete incentive for people to make contributions. Of course, Google will also publish other ads.
But Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales isn’t taking all this lying down. For some time a company backed by Wales has been working on an open-source search engine that would work very much like Google and, according to New Scientist, an initial version of the engine could be launched as soon as next week.
Where Google’s advantage is offering a share of the profits, Wales’ alternative is appealing to people’s desire to get away from money-making. “Search Wikia”, as it is currently known, will not share search data with advertisers or store users’ search terms to better target ad serving.
To match Google’s army of Google-bots, 500 volunteers are running web-crawlers to compile Search Wikia’s web index, which so far totals 100 million pages. As well as being a search engine, Search Wikia will also incorporate some social networking and user voting options.
But if it is launched next week, don’t expect it to be a smoothly working final version. “The alpha version will probably break in numerous ways we can’t predict, but that’ll help us improve it,” a Search Wikia spokesperson says.