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In early December Google began testing a new tool called Knol, and of course it is getting a lot of buzz. The theory behind Knol is to apply Google’s “knowledge” of relevance analysis into creating a web space where you can go to find useful information on topics “from scientific concepts, to medical information, from geographical and historical, to entertainment, from product information, to how-to-fix-it instructions.” They named it Knol because they feel this term should be known as one unit of knowledge. Udi Manber, VP of Engineering at Google explains that “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.” The structure of the tool will include an endless number of Knols.

With the advent of Knol, the search engine giant may intentionally or unintentionally be trying to pull traffic from Wikipedia and social networks like Facebook. The competition to Wikipedia is easily recognized when Google describes their aggregate system as a place to find knowledge. Just like Wikipedia, Google is asking people to write a trustworthy article on a particle subject for their Knols. However Google is claiming that the main idea of Knol’s design is to highlight the authors. The thought here is that if you know or recognize the author, you can then make a judgment on the level of authority the person has on that particular subject. At first it might be surprising that Google would start a competition with Wikipedia since it seems like you can’t do a search these days without getting a Wikipedia result on the first page of Google’s search results. Looks like Google has just recognized another great place to advertise and who wouldn’t want their own knowledge aggregate system on their home turf?

With respect to social networking sites, Knol may also be stealing some traffic. There is no better authority to write on yourself or your company than YOU, and this concept is similar to other social networking sites already out there. The difference here is that Knol would allow others to write on a subject with competing pages and claims of being authoritative. People like people and they don’t mind some drama – by allowing readers to know the author, they can get content with some background behind it. At this point, it is too early to tell how much of a search marketing opportunity Knol could pose for individuals or organizations but it certainly looks promising.

Google has proven they are the online relevance king for search results (those results can be found in the latest search activity numbers). Thus we expect they can apply all that “knowledge” to create a great information aggregate system that is useful and relevant. Udi Manber stated, “We are very excited by the potential to substantially increase the dissemination of knowledge.” We are also excited.