Knol

Open collaborative platform for user-generated articles
Google Cemetery
GENERAL INFORMATION
Category:
Education
Started:
2008
BUSINESS FAILURE
Cause:
Bad Business Model
Closed:
2012

Description

Knol was a platform where users could upload articles on all kinds of topics. It was released in 2008 and was supposedly going to replace Wikipedia as the user-generated knowledge source on the web.

Google also integrated its AdSense advertisement program into the service. This way, contributors had the chance to profit from their articles.

Knol

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Cause of Failure

Knol just wasn’t good enough to compete with Wikipedia, or even most blogs out there. It had some major design flaws that contributed to lots of poorly written content, spamming, and outright plagiarism. 

For example, only the original author could edit their work, regardless of any feedback received from other users. This led to the same topic having multiple entries from various, but not necessarily reliable, sources. 

The search system worked the same way a web search would and didn’t have a way to prioritize articles written by experts over those created by laymen, or even frauds. This, combined with the fact that people looking for information couldn’t verify it, meant that articles sounding the “right way” would overshadow those that were actually correct, if a bit boring to read.

Furthermore, the lack of control of what was posted allowed for many users to plagiarize original content from various bloggers and experts with no repercussion whatsoever. It was extremely easy for spammers to upload a great amount of content and profit from AdSense by simulating traffic.

At the end, Knol wasn’t any better than a normal internet search. On the contrary – the spam, lack of quality, and excessive repetition found on Knol drove users away. Bloggers could also gain a lot more traction when posting through their preferred hosting services, which meant there was little incentive for high-quality writers to post on Knol rather than their own blogs.

When Google decided to close Knol in 2012, they created a WordPress-based scholarly project called Annotum, where users could transfer their articles and continue publishing content.

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