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Knol’s Well: Google’s Encyclopedia Looks Cool

Back in December, Google said it was working on a platform for knowledge sharing called Knol–and I wrote what seems in retrospect an unusually cranky post about it. I admitted that it could be neat, but I said I was tired of Google hopping on bandwagons, and that Knol sounded like a me-too project. I was also irked by the fact that Google said at the time that it wasn’t sure whether it would ever actually launch Knol. In short, I was just plain pissy.

Flash forward to today: Knol has indeed been launched at knol.google.com. And maybe I just happen to be in a better mood today, but I’ve gone from grudgingly admitting it might be OK to being…well, enthusiastic about it. Or at least guardedly optimistic.

What’s Knol, in one sentence? It’s Wikipedia–except that the content is written by identifiable individuals, in theory experts in their field, who are allowed to have a point of view, and who can get a cut of Google advertising displayed on the entries they write. Over at Wired News, Steven Levy has a very nice piece on the idea, with opinions from Knol advocates (including Google’s Udi Manber, its inventor) and Knol naysayers (such as Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia).

Knol is not exactly a radically new idea. It sounds a little like an open-admissions variant of About.com, and even more like Seth Godin’s Squidoo. But mostly, It’s impossible to talk about Knol without comparing it to Wikipedia.

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