Google vs Wikipedia rivalry heats up

Techie types love their rivalries – Mac vs PC, Linux vs Windows, IE vs Firefox – and now they have another to add to the list: Knol vs Wikipedia. Late last week Google opened up Knol, its new online encyclopedia product, to full public participation after

Techie types love their rivalries – Mac vs PC, Linux vs Windows, IE vs Firefox – and now they have another to add to the list: Knol vs Wikipedia.

Late last week Google opened up Knol, its new online encyclopedia product, to full public participation after several months of beta testing.

Knol is conceptually similar to Wikipedia in that it is a freely accessible, user-driven online knowledge resource, but there are also some important differences between the two.

Wikipedia operates on the principle that a kind of invisible hand of online participation will produce accurate, useful knowledge. The user contributed articles it publishes can be amended or corrected by any subsequent visitor who thinks he or she knows better, and consequently there are no author attributions.

Knol, by contrast, gives the author the power to control if and when other users can alter or update their contribution. If they don’t like what another user suggests, they can just veto it. But there is a price for that control – authors must put their name to their work.

And from that fact flows another difference between the two. Whereas Wikipedia only publishes one, constantly evolving article per topic, Knol will allow multiple items. That means if the author of a current article doesn’t like your contribution, you can just post your own.

But it is the final difference between the two, in some ways peripheral to their core function, that may have the biggest impact on this battle of the web-pedias. Where Wikipedia is a not-for-profit venture that relies on the enthusiasm of its contributors for content, Knol could become a nice little earner for authors if they allow Google to place ads along side their article.

 

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