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Google and Wikipedia


John Simkin
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Article in today's Times:

http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/busi...icle3054287.ece

Google is to go head-to-head with Wikipedia, the web’s largest reference work, in a clash of two of the internet’s most powerful brands.

A new Google service, dubbed knol, will invite “people who know a particular subject to write an authoritative article about it”, Udi Manber, a Google engineer, said.

Like Wikipedia, articles in knol (the name derives from “knowledge”) will be free to read online. In a departure from the nonprofit Wikipedia model, however, knol’s authors will be able to attach advertising to their work and take a share of revenues.

“The goal is for knols [individual articles] to cover all topics, from scientific concepts to entertainment,” Mr Manber said. The project is the latest to distance Google from its roots in internet search and pitch it against well-established rivals in a new sector. The company recently squared up to the mobile phone industry by unveiling its own operating system for hand-held devices. It is also set to bid for a portion of America’s airwaves that it could use to build a wireless broadband network.

The creation of knol, at present in an invitation-only test phase but likely to be open to the public within months, will set two of the web’s titans against each other.

In October, Wikipedia, which relies on donations for funds, was visited by 107 million people, or a third of the “active global internet population”, according to Nielsen Online, the analyst. That made it the eighth most-visited online destination.

Google’s search engine was the world’s most popular site, with more than 260 million users, although its own reference work, Google Scholar, was only fifteenth in its class, with about 4.5 million users. Google, which says that it exists “to organise the world’s information and make it universally useful and accessible”, suggested that knol was designed to stamp out the malicious entries that have blighted Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia that “anybody can edit”.

“We believe that knowing who wrote what will significantly help users make better use of web content,” Google said. The company noted that it “will not serve as an editor in any way and will not bless any content. All editorial responsibilities and control will rest with the authors.” Contributors will retain the copyright to their submissions.

However, as well as being ranked by readers, content will be ranked by the Google search engine, which will be the most important access point to the site. Mr Manber said: “A knol is meant to be the first thing someone who searches for this topic for the first time will want to read.”

Jimmy Wales, the Wikipedia founder, who recently launched a rival search engine to Google’s, questioned whether knol would be able to generate enough “quality content”. He also suggested that knol articles would lack balance. “They are not going to allow collaboration and aren’t going to go for Wikipedia’s neutral style,” he said.

Where Wikipedia promotes collaboration between authors, knol looks set to foster rivalry. Contributors to knol will not be able to contribute anonymously and will not be able to edit each other’s work, two defining characteristics of Wikipedia. Whereas on Wikipedia, readers find only one entry on, say, the First World War, on knol authors will submit separate pieces that will compete for advertising dollars.

Wikipedia, founded in 2001, has more than eight million articles in 253 languages, from Afrikaans to Zazaki. In contrast to Google, it has refused to alter its policies to operate in different countries, which has led it to being blocked in states such as China.

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I'm unsure of something here - are they inviting people to lodge articles only during the beta testing, or will this be the norm for the general release? In other words, Google will determine the people to submit the data?

I think knowing who wrote a particular piece is worthwhile, but you have to be able to question the entry. I'm sure some people would question any work I did regarding Moon Hoax claims, and likewise I would question anyone who wrote a 9/11 entry from the viewpoint of government complicity.

Perhaps the competition between the two will force each other to address the faults in each system?

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  • 11 months later...
Here is a long article on Google censorship. There are some interesting parts.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/30/magazine/30google-t.html

Thank you for that important link. The article includes the following:

At the beginning of the 20th century, civil libertarians in America worried most about the danger of the government silencing political speech: think of Eugene V. Debs, the Socialist candidate for President, who was imprisoned in 1919 for publicly protesting American involvement during World War I. But by the late 1960s, after the Supreme Court started to protect unpopular speakers more consistently, some critics worried that free speech in America was threatened less by government suppression than by editorial decisions made by the handful of private mass-media corporations like NBC and CBS that disproportionately controlled public discourse. One legal scholar, Jerome Barron, even argued at the time that the courts should give unorthodox speakers a mandatory right of access to media outlets controlled by giant corporations.

Today the Web might seem like a free-speech panacea: it has given anyone with Internet access the potential to reach a global audience. But though technology enthusiasts often celebrate the raucous explosion of Web speech, there is less focus on how the Internet is actually regulated, and by whom. As more and more speech migrates online, to blogs and social-networking sites and the like, the ultimate power to decide who has an opportunity to be heard, and what we may say, lies increasingly with Internet service providers, search engines and other Internet companies like Google, Yahoo, AOL, Facebook and even eBay.

The most powerful and protean of these Internet gatekeepers is, of course, Google. With control of 63 percent of the world’s Internet searches, as well as ownership of YouTube, Google has enormous influence over who can find an audience on the Web around the world. As an acknowledgment of its power, Google has given Nicole Wong a central role in the company’s decision-making process about what controversial user-generated content goes down or stays up on YouTube and other applications owned by Google, including Blogger, the blog site; Picasa, the photo-sharing site; and Orkut, the social networking site. Wong and her colleagues also oversee Google’s search engine: they decide what controversial material does and doesn’t appear on the local search engines that Google maintains in many countries in the world, as well as on Google.com. As a result, Wong and her colleagues arguably have more influence over the contours of online expression than anyone else on the planet.

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