I was reading the official Google Blog about their upcoming “knol” product launch – “Official Google Blog: Encouraging people to contribute knowledge” yesterday. After reading this post, it sounds a lot like FUD to me. I’ve never really accused Google of FUD-slinging before, but this sounds like a pre-announcement of a product that still has a lot of work to do before it’s ready to see the light of day. The idea of adding curated, expert-authored content is not new for the web. It’s not even new for Google – remember Google Co-Op and the customized search engines built by industry experts.
This is highly unlikely to impact Wikipedia – Wikipedia is a top 10 Alexa site. I don’t see Wikipedia becoming any less valuable or suffering a serious traffic decline unless Google does something to remove or demote in its search results or unless they run out of money and can’t scale the service with demand. Until I see a lot more details on what the “Knol” product is, it’s hard for me to see how it will unseat what is today the dominant source of curated information on the web (Wikipedia).
This might impact Wikia and Mahalo, but it’s way to early to tell – Those products are both really new (one hasn’t even launched yet) and the bigger challenge they face isn’t competition from Google over “Knol” – it’s getting users to contribute to their system instead of Wikipedia and getting users to prefer using these “curated” search products instead of a more popular basic web search like Google. Changing user behavior away from the status quo is a much harder challenge than simply beating another competitor.
I’ll be curious to see what the “Knol” product winds up being once it gets released.