Realm Of Randomness

December 18, 2007

The arrival of a rival – it’s Google again (yawn)

Filed under: Current events,Opinion — Randomizer @ 3:38 am

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In what’s becoming old news real fast these days, Google steps up as a competitor yet again – this time to the collaborative encyclopedia that’s been around for about a decade now – Wikipedia. Google recently announced its latest project, the information sharing tool called ‘Knol’, where rather than anonymous posting/editing, authors with their actual names will be contributing to the information on the site, and get paid a share of the ad-revenue as well.

Why this is a good thing

  • Without a doubt, this is a recipe for great content – good peer reviews, knowledgeable authors, and consistency in the flow of the article, as opposed to Wikipedia’s articles that are updated so many times by so many people that it often reads more like a series of unrelated facts than an organized article with a central theme.
  • Wikipedia can never be quoted anywhere, just because of the nature of its content – but I’m pretty sure that if leaders in the field start contributing, Google’s ‘knols’ (pages of information) can be quoted with a considerable amount of confidence.

…for Google

  • Like most blogs have mentioned, this makes great business sense for the company as well, as the free Wikipedia consistently owns some of the top spots in search listings for any major topic. Getting their own ads to sell by competing with the Wikipedia entries for the top spots is an excellent idea.
  • As this article also cleverly points out, the smaller players who want to get noticed on the internet will find it pretty hard getting up there – and will be forced to ‘buy’ their way to the top, which is again profitable to Google..

Why I’m not terribly excited 

While all is fair in business, and I do believe that this is better for the world’s information in the long run, I do cringe at the thought of having a search term I enter returning me a page full of Google’s information at some point in say 2 or 3 years. I do of course believe that they will not tamper with their search results, but it still isn’t a very comforting thought – that the internet which was once all about anyone getting fame, any blog article coming up on the top, being replaced by answers from repositories.

Some more reasons …

  • Wikipedia was what the world built, together. Anyone, anywhere – it was information sharing with no personal recognition, in it’s purest form. Knowledge was contributed for the sole purpose of contributing to knowledge. Knol will however be, knowledge for fame, knowledge for recognition, or knowledge for money – sort of like a perversion of the innocent concept of knowledge sharing.
  • Many technical questions arise – how will the page rank for these Knols be calculated ? Will people go to Wikipedia, flood it with links to their Knols, so that they end up with a higher page rank and eventually, more money ?
  • Won’t people rush to make the first Knols – on the Transformers, on Sex, and Britney Spears?
  • What about plagiarism – who will stop research papers from being copied? Google and the author can easily earn money off plagiarized articles – while the real authors are faced with going against the machine on their own.
  • Who decides who is an ‘authorized editor’ on a subject, anyway?
  • Google seemed like an ‘independent judge’ on the world’s content… much like a match referee in a soccer game of billions of players. But what happens when the match referee’s own brothers are out there on the field, playing, and fighting it out with the others? Doesn’t the impartiality of the referee come into question – will the spectators buy it when the match referee awards his brothers free kicks? Even if those players are awesome anyway?

These questions make me a little wary of the Google move. When they competed with the big guys and won, they had the world behind them. This time though, I’d think people will side with Wikipedia, because this time, Google is ‘the man’.

I’ll end by letting you have a glimpse at the future – Google already has the world’s blogs, the world’s videos, the world’s mail, and of course, the biggest thing, the world’s search engine – once they have the search results too, they will own the internet in every sense of the word … and that, is exactly what the success of this project will accomplish.

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6 Comments »

  1. This is an excellent article and a great conclusion. What Google is proposing sounds an awful lot like about.com to me since it’s owned by experts in the same manner that About.com is owned. I know a lot of people get onto Wikipedia’s case because you cannot site precisely who wrote which bit of information and therefore cannot prove 100% accuracy, however, I personally am so tired of the web existing strictly for personal or business promotion. One beautiful thing about wikipedia is that it exists for mostly knowledge and not self-promotion. Google’s Knols will definitely abolish this. *sigh*

    Comment by Vanessa — December 18, 2007 @ 2:38 pm | Reply

  2. Thanks for stopping by, commenting, *and* linking to this post from your site :) … I updated this post since I saw a lot of traffic coming this way. You are right in that the concept of wikipedia was beautiful… I also believe that wikipedia is going to be a very hard competitor to beat… and it will be very interesting to watch the next few years unfold…

    Comment by Randomizer — December 19, 2007 @ 2:07 am | Reply

  3. …Definitely hard to beat wikipedia. wiki is good for general knowledege.. or information about certain things which you already know. But cannot be taken for serious stuff. I spend most of my time on wiki…there are lot many topics I came across which contains totally misleading information and I ended up rather editing many and to the extent of my knowledge on them.
    If google can take care of this and put the similar amount of “genuine” information and provide such a huge variety of topics then wiki might be in trouble but will definitely not run out of business.

    Comment by salman — December 19, 2007 @ 11:52 am | Reply

  4. Will the Randomizer reveal himself/herself in Knol?
    [:)]
    IMHO, we may just overestimate the Brand Power of Google or underestimate the intelligence of active internet users… At best, “knol” presents a new medium for budding jouralists, but here again, like in any other media house, the filteration process will be very severe on casual writers. While all voracious bloggers will take a shot at “knol”, only a handful will go on to write regularly for “knol”. Afterall, how many of us go on to become freelance writers with what the internet has already offered us? statistically speaking, It’s a few thousands among the 21 million active internet users in India( figures as of december 2006)

    This will remain the strength of wikipedia, the fact that there are no restrictions for the contributions that can be made.

    I loved the way you ended it,[:)] but then Mr/Miss. Randomizer, while their coffers continue to swell, Google as a search engine still remains the most credible source because they have never misled their users by fudging their search results. So there is hope still…

    I’ve been reading this blog for sometime, count me as one of your regular readers…

    PS: 25 year old from MIT… It would be a pity if I’d not known you in college. Can I take potshots at who this could be? [:P]
    kidding!

    Comment by Sudhir Pai — December 24, 2007 @ 7:02 pm | Reply

  5. @Sudhir – Yep, we know each other :). I was nick-named ‘Campus Man’ in the book of ’04( *Best mag ever, of course*). Glad to know you’re a regular reader, man !

    Yup, I’ve faith in Google doing no evil – they would’ve never been where they are if not for that motto. That said, it is still a company out there for business – and with great business comes great responsibility ;) . Let’s hope the war isn’t bloody !

    Comment by Randomizer — December 25, 2007 @ 1:59 am | Reply

  6. AAHA!
    you are “campus man!” hey! i was a huge fan of “campus man” in college dude, never thought you were for real…[:P]
    dont worry, your identity is safe with me, i’ll never reveal your real name to google…ha ha ha!

    BTW i wonder what appears if i type “campus man” on google…[:)]

    OMG you’ll never believe what turns up!

    Comment by Sudhir Pai — December 25, 2007 @ 1:49 pm | Reply


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