For Whom The Bell Knols

By far the funniest thing I read all week was the opening paragraph to Rob Hof's article at about Google's Knol:
Funny how people always want to declare whatever Google announces as a [insert name here]-killer. Google's new tool called "knol," which will give people a way to write "authoritative" articles about a particular subject, is supposed to kill Wikipedia.

Rob, please accept my apology now. I found this funny because of the sheer quantity of those efforts that are trying to achieve the opposite title: namely, that of "Google-killer."

'Tis the season to be jolly and spread the linklove, so here's a short list of the companies using that specific nomenclature to try to topple the search giant: Microsoft, natural language search, Yahoo, Facebook, Powerset, Twine, Cuill, and Relona -- and that's just from the first three Google SERPs.



Thanks to Google Blogoscoped, I learned about Company XYZ, which has actually named its search tool GoogleKiller. "With their patented technology running in the background, XYZ's next generation search engine will now display both a car and an animal in searches for 'jaguar.' [XYZ CEO] John Doe adds that this feature is currently being rolled out to 5 other ambiguous English words."

There's no shortage of companies taking aim at the Mighty G. Google itself, however, hasn't managed to lock out any market other than search, and it's not for want of trying. Based on its acquisitions, the company won't be satisfied until every major market bears the familiar rainbow-colored brand. This latest foray into collaboratively created content is akin to Lance Armstrong trying to play a little one-on-one with Lebron James.

Continuing the sports metaphor, I refer you now to a Search Insider column I wrote back in September: "When Search Turns Cannibal." In it, I describe Web companies as belonging to one of two distinct camps, the passers and the catchers:

A passer's primary aim is to serve up the content the searcher is after, with organic and paid search results that are roughly equal in relevance. If the organic results are too good, nobody will click on the ads, and if the paid results are too good, it'll seem like a scam.
...The catchers, on the other hand, are those whose aim is to keep you on the site as long as possible. MySpace, the fourth largest search engine from David's article, is a catcher. EBay is also a catcher.
From Danny Sullivan's comment about Knol on this week, I can pride myself that either Danny reads my column or great minds think alike:
"As a search engine, Google's job is to point at things," says Danny Sullivan, a search analyst and blogger for Search Engine Land. "If you're pointing at your own destination, you have an inherent conflict."

I'm with you, Danny. I also think that, by counting on revenue sharing to entice contributions, Google is underestimating the non-monetary drivers that motivate people to create the long tail of Wikipedia entries.

If Google is successful with Knol, the door will open further to Charles Knight and whichever of his beloved alts steps up to capture the only-search-no-content-creation market. Alternatively, and more likely, Knol will go the way of Google's other Web 2.0 properties, which is to say, not far.

So is Google Knol a Wikipedia-killer? The bottom line is that I doubt it, but then again, who knols?

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