Kissing Google's Knol

Finally I want to kiss Google. Maybe not Eric Schmidt (certainly not on the lips), but at least ceremoniously and symbolically. Finally Google are doing the right thing. They have declared war against Wikipedia.

Google's declaration of war is called Knol. It is their new online user-generated information resource that unashamedly and unambiguously challenges the very foundations of the crazed Wikipedia experiment.

Google versus Wikipedia, eh. A curse on both houses?  No. This isn't Khomenei's Iran versus Baathist Iraq, Nazi Germany versus Stalin's Russia or Arsenal versus Chelsea. It's not a war in which we should hope they both lose. Google's Knol is better than Wikipedia for two critical reasons. Firstly, in contrast with Wikipedia, Knol is being built by real authors with real names and real human identities. As Nick Carr explains:

The big distinction with Wikipedia is that Knol relies on individual authors rather than "the crowd." Each article, or "knol," will be signed and owned by the person who writes it, and articles on the same subject will compete with one another for viewer's eyes. In contrast, Wikipedia builds a single version of each article in a communal way with many edits by anonymous contributors.

Secondly, while Wikipedia takes pride in forcing its contributors to give away their wisdom for free, Google's Knol is focused on helping its contributors realize revenue (real dollars as opposed to the worthless brownie points of giving away one's labor for free). As the New York Times argued:

Knol and Wikipedia would be different in other ways. While Wikipedia is a not-for-profit and ad-free endeavor, Knol has a more commercial bent: Authors could choose to have Google place ads on their pages and would get part of the revenue.

I guess Google is acknowledging a quite revolutionary idea: authors need to be paid for their work.

So lets all kiss Google's Knol, yes ceremonially and symbolically, but also with gusto. As I argued earlier this week on Internet Evolution, the future of the Internet is the past. Internet 3.0 won't be an Orwellian "Semantic Web" in which an all-knowing machine informs ignorant human beings what they really want to do tomorrow. No, the reverse is true. Web 3.0 is about smart humans mastering dumb technology and using it, as with Google's Knol, to create a viable and accountable knowledge economy.