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Friday, December 14, 2007

Google Knol Signals the Apogee of Google's Hegemony

Google has peaked. Their hegemony has reached apogee. (No, not Apogee.) I'm stunned reading about Google Knol today. Why? The Google Knol announcement means one of two scenarios for Google:
  1. They've failed at fighting spam. They need to own sufficient content in order to keep their search index spam free.
  2. They've decided to compete directly with web content creators. No company will trust Google going forward.
As a GOOG shareholder, I'm frankly a little disappointed today. I think the announcement of Google Knol (whether or not it actually sees the light of day) indicates either incompetence or arrogance on Google's part. Either the algorithm is broken and they can't fix it or they've decided that the existing content on the web is not sufficient for their search index. If the former, then Google will lose market share as users lose trust in the quality of the search results. If the latter, Google will lose market share as companies perceive Google as an enemy instead of an ally and work together to circumvent the search engine. Do you see how either case indicates a serious problem for Google? Is this an inflection point in the history of Google?

John Battelle understands the gravity of the Google Knol situation. In Google Takes Aim at Wikipedia, Is Now Officially a Media Company, he writes:
This one really blows me away. Everyone has noticed recently (over the past few years and in particular lately) how dominant Wikipedia is in Google results. Well, I guess Google's noticed too, and decided it wants to own the second click, as well as the first.
I'm noticing a mixture of reactions in the blogosphere. I'll list both some pro-knol and anti-knol posts. First, pro-knol:
I'm noticing more bloggers objecting to Google Knol, so I'll list more anti-knol:
BTW, does the Google Knol project even fit the parameters of the stated Google mission?

I wonder what Seth Godin thinks today about his recent post about the success of Squidoo:
Not only has the content grown, but our traffic has grown as well. We’re three to five times bigger than anyone else we compete with. Nobody else is even close in traffic, pages, users, etc. Google Analytics reports more than 6 million unique visitors a month and approximately twice that in visits.
Now, they'll have to compete with Google. If they recognize this and drop Google AdSense and many other companies follow suit and drop AdSense, what will that do to Google's revenue stream? I think Google Knol is more of a Squidoo killer than a Wikipedia killer. If Google Knol launches, will Squidoo see a mass migration of writers? Or, does Google's capitulation indicate the validity of Squidoo's business model? Not to mention Mahalo, but I'd rather not. ;-)

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Blogger anuzis said...

Rich - typically love your blog, but this post is overladen with weaknesses and seems unusual for your standards. A few issues:

1) Your link 'failed at fighting spam' makes one question your motivation. It's as though you think people will take your word for it that the destination actually discusses what you hint at with the title of the link. The dest. hardly represents a failure at fighting spam. It an open post discussing the challenges with fighting spam & some possible solutions. Hardly a sign of failure.

2) The notion that Google hosting Knol makes it compete with web content creators is so backwards I have no clue how you got to that conclusion. Knol would provide the exact opposite. Currently content creators might share their knowledge on Wikipedia and get $0 in return. Knol rewards content creators by giving them a simple means through which they can be compensated via AdSense for sharing their knowledge.

It's like saying Google owning YouTube puts it in competition with content creators. Google is providing a platform through which content creators can directly monetize their work. Whether it's through YouTube, Knol, Blogger, AdSense on Googlepages, Google remains consistent: It doesn't create any content, it merely provides a platform to host it and rightfully shares a cut of the ad revenue with the contributors.

If I were a content creator with knowledge to put on Knol I'd rejoice. Google has made it easy to monetize video via AdSense on YouTube's new partner program, same business model for Knol.

3) The insinuation that Knol is out of alignment with Google's mission seems like the same corny tactic attempted in #1 where you link to something that directly contradicts what you suggest with the hyperlink's title.

Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally useful and accessible.

Knol would provide humanity with a platform where people could find accountable information backed by authors with real identifies and their reputations on the line. It'd help those authors monetize their work and make it worth their while to write, and the added monetary incentive to authors would potentially be more of an incentive than authors have to post on other knowledge sharing sites (e.g. Wikipedia).

Just b/c Google is providing a new platform for end-users to monetize their content, consistent with YouTube, Blogger, etc., hardly makes it a wild change where they're now in competition with content creators and contradicting their mission.

Yes, some authors on the topic 'insomnia' might have their own site with AdSense where they could have been making money before, but Knol would be open to them to contribute their info there as well and be compensated just the same. If those authors have additional books/etc for sale on their site they could link to those and still monetize. The facilitation of knowledge is enhanced & the internet becomes a richer place for all.

It's curious to see such an illogical and alarmist post coming from you. Hope to see more of your more thoughtful work in the future.



Fri Dec 14, 08:33:00 PM EST  
Blogger Richard said...

Hi Michael. Thanks for the thoughtful comment. Let's just say I've seen a darker side of Google lately. I'm a little wary of Google's intentions. Plus, as a stockholder, I don't want them to make any moves which appear anti-competitive.

I honestly think that the fact that Google needs external help and cannot or will not deal with spam internally indicates a failure. It's up to Google to index the content on the web, not dictate how the web should be structured. With all due respect to Matt Cutts, I think Google's headed down the wrong path.

Knol is different from existing Google content creation tools like Blogger. When someone writes a blog post, there's no expectation that it will rank in the top 10 Google search results (let alone the top #1 spot). The primary goal of blogging isn't SEO-specific. Look at this quote from the Google blog:

"A knol on a particular topic is meant to be the first thing someone who searches for this topic for the first time will want to read."

It does appear that Knol is being built to dominate Google search results. Seems a bit arrogant on Google's part, don't you think? Maybe that post wasn't written very well. Maybe the Google PR team should have made some edits.

To your point about Google paying content creators via AdSense - doesn't that sound like a "Made for AdSense" site? Again, perhaps the intentions of Google are altruistic but it's not coming across that way.

BTW, I'll grant you there's a bit of hyperbole in my post title. Sure. Can you see my reasoning, though?

I suspect there's a good chance Knol won't see the light of day. I'm wondering if the pre-launch announcement on the official Google blog was a trial balloon.

BTW, you work for Google, right? ;-)

Fri Dec 14, 10:06:00 PM EST  
Blogger anuzis said...

Rich - thanks for the reply. I think I see where you're coming from.

"It's up to Google to index the content on the web, not dictate how the web should be structured."

Google's mission is not to index content on the web. It's to organize the world's information and make it universally useful and accessible.

Knol leverages a similar strategy as Google Base. Google Base provides (or in your words, dictates) structure so that the information indexed there can be organized with greater confidence and accuracy. There is great content out there on the web, but it can be difficult for a web crawler to know with 100% confidence what it is crawling and how to categorize & subcategorize products, realestate, recipies, etc. Dictating structure helps solve that.

"A knol on a particular topic is meant to be the first thing someone who searches for this topic for the first time will want to read."

This quote does not say Google will put Knol links atop every page. It says the idea behind Knol is to contain information of such value that search users would -want- it there. Those are two different things.

"It does appear that Knol is being built to dominate Google search results."

If a Knol entry ends up first, it would be because the content has superior relevance and search users would want it there.

"To your point about Google paying content creators via AdSense - doesn't that sound like a "Made for AdSense" site?"

There are sites with legitimate content, by hard working authors with the hope of compensation for their work via AdSense. If you're willing to call that 'Made for AdSense', then I'm not sure how Knol would be different.

"I suspect there's a good chance Knol won't see the light of day."

May or may not, but if Google doesn't end up launching Knol I hope someone else does. I'd like a platform that could help make information on the internet more accountable like that.

Why I’d like to see Knol:
People often hesitate to cite Wikipedia because it can be difficult to trust an anonymous team of authors. It's difficult to cite Wikipedia professionally or in academic papers without a reputable identity behind the information. There is value in providing the accountability of a Ph.D's professional reputation willing to commit to an article's reliability.

I do work for Google, but my work is outside Knol and the natural search results. I'm not able to speak for the company, & the above ideas are my own. That said, know that I appreciate the critical view you take on Google AdWords and often leverage your insights on this blog to try and bring about positive change when I can. I can't comment much beyond that.



Sat Dec 15, 09:42:00 PM EST  
Blogger Richard said...

Thanks, Michael. Any chance of a domain network (for AdSense for Domains traffic) in AdWords, discrete from the search and content networks? ;-)

Sat Dec 15, 10:57:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I spend a large amount of money on Google Adwords every month, and my experience about the lack of coherence of their statistical reports makes me not trust a word out of their mouth. I don't have the slightest doubt that Google's intention is to supplant Wikipedia. I can't for a moment imagine why the world needs a borg-sized alternative to Wikipedia and Squidoo.

"Don't be evil" died a violent death when Eric Schmidt trashed Cnet for googling *him* and publishing the results. Not a trace of altruism there.

Long live open source, and by that I also mean transparent sources of content. If Google is to start acting like new Microsoft, squashing independents and earning the right to be viewed suspiciously at every turn, then so be it.

Sun Dec 16, 06:01:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fri Oct 30, 03:49:00 AM EDT  

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