Google Knol Conflict of Interest
I understand that Google sees problems with Wikipedia and is attempting to address them, I see the same problems. I don't think that Google should get into this space though. The temptation to cheat and deliver people to Knol over Wikipedia is too great.
Google also has to be careful. Technically, just them linking to their own domain, let's say it is knol.google.com, or www.google.com/knol will give them an unfair advantage over Wikipedia. Its like the laws around discrimination in the workplace, just the fact that disparate impact exists is enough to call discrimination regardless of intent. This is what will happen with Knol. The question is what will happen to Google as a result.
The largest question is why? It doesn't really make sense for Google to move into this space. Part of what makes Wikipedia great is that there is no money in it. People post either because of vanity, or a genuine desire to transfer knowledge. With Google intending to generate revenue from this, even if they are going to split it with the author which is worse, it pollutes the ideal behind sharing knowledge.
People may rightly call me out in that I have adsense on my blog, they would claim that I am deriving revenue from sharing my knowledge, or opinions. I would respond that Google definitely is not splitting its revenue from a page impression or an adsense click with me 50-50, it is probably more like 5-95 in their favor, and while my goal with this blog is to convey my takes on technology and some of my best practices, I am not claiming to be an authority on the subjects. I may be, but that is up to my reader to decide.
Wikipedia is doing a fine job, their internal search algos leave much to be desired, but the site's SEO is so good that I can use Google for that. It just seems that Google is being greedy and are trying to become not just an organizer of the world's information, but the source as well which is an inherent conflict of interest.
Let's look into our crystal ball for a minute and say that Google does completely obliterate Wikipedia. They may keep their internal firewall up, and serve up pages through their generic algorithm with no modification or preference throughout Larry Page, Sergei Brin, and Eric Schmidt's lives. The question I have, and it is a question of Google in general, if they are successful in withstanding the test of time, they are a great weapon for any eager businessperson or prospective CEO. Without the founders' guiding influence, what's to stop Google from becoming society's worst enemy? What's to stop them in the future from directing searchers to their content pages and ignoring others' claiming that their page is more relevant. They would say that people would stop using the engine if that ever happened. But how would people know? If Google is the only engine that survives, it is looking that way, most people consider Google the internet's home page, then how would anyone ever know that these other content sources exist.
By doing this Google is forcing its users to ask themselves these sorts of questions. These are questions that Google should rather its users didn't ask, because the answers are terrifying. There is nothing to stop Google from becoming the decider of what is seen on the internet. There is nothing to stop Google from destroying your internet business in favor of its own content now that it is in that business. If they are a monopoly, which they are becoming, then hopefully the Government will step in and break them up, but with the money they have, and the potential influence they could have with the CIA, NSA, and the like, that would be an occurance that stretches the imagination.
Sure, some of this is paranoia that Google has so much information about human behavior, so much in fact that they could begin to direct human behavior. To date nothing like this, to my knowledge, is happening, but I have to believe it is only because of the values of the executives running Google. Once they are gone, the internet could become a very scary place for people interested in choice.