Google's Answer To Wikipedia, Knol, Launches

Knol's means of encouragement is Google's AdSense program, which will let verified subscribers generate income from the articles they've authored.
Others, like Metaweb's Freebase, have tried to capture some of Wikipedia's magic without notable success. In some ways, Knol looks like Google Base 2.0, an attempt to provide the structure and community that Google's free online data repository lacks.

It's not immediately clear what the emergence of Knol means for older content-generation architectures like Blogger. Both allow users to generate and monetize content. And perhaps there's room for both, with Knol providing a personal identity and topic-based structure for content and Blogger providing a domain identity and time-based structure for content.

Nor is it clear what Knol's possible success might mean for Wikipedia, one of the most visited sites on the Internet. Were Knol to become popular at Wikipedia's expense, Google would have a hard time convincing people that its search algorithm treats all content fairly, as Google insists is the case.

Privacy may be a concern for Knol authors posting under a pseudonym. The Knol Terms of Service document states that Google may disclose personal information to comply with valid legal process or government requests. The ToS also states, "Personal information collected by Google may be stored and processed in the United States or any other country in which Google Inc. or its agents maintain facilities. By using the Service, you consent to any such transfer of information outside your country."

This is legal boilerplate -- like all companies, Google tries to obey the laws of the countries where it operates. And it is also not an issue for Knol at the moment since Knol is currently a U.S. product only. But it's troubling to think that Google reserves the right to transfer information about a U.S. user of Knol to another country. Valid legal process in foreign countries isn't necessarily compatible with the free speech rights enjoyed by U.S. citizens.

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Samuel Greengard, Contributing Reporter
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John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
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Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing