Google as encyclopedia?

On the BBC this morning: Google debuts knowledge project:

Google has kicked off a project to create an authoritative store of information about any and every topic.

The search giant has already started inviting people to write about the subject on which they are known to be an expert.

The system will centre around authored articles created with a tool Google has dubbed "knol" – the word denotes a unit of knowledge – that will make webpages with a distinctive livery to identify them as authoritative.

The knol pages will get search rankings to reflect their usefulness. Knols will also come with tools that readers can use to rate the information, add comments, suggest edits or additional content.

Nicholas Carr said the knol project was … an attempt by Google to knock ad-free Wikipedia entries on similar subjects down the rankings.

So much could be said about this. Is it a peer review system for the web? How are 'experts' discovered and chosen? What factors would influence whether an 'expert' agrees to participate? Would practices of academic inclusion and exclusion apply? Will it use semantic web technologies or methodologies? Will commercial factors affect the users' trust in search results? How will it affect traditional content providers like encyclopaedias, and new content sources like Wikipedia? Are they duplicating existing knowledge systems just to provide a new revenue stream?

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