Google, SEO, Knol and the rest of the world

Google recently launched Knol, their wikipedia competitor which allows experts to own articles. The concept is interesting because Wikipedia allows free-for-all authorship, and by making the articles edited by experts and listing their owners clearly on the knol, Google hopes it will get higher quality content. The editors will stake their prestige on the quality of the content, and overtime Google could also share Adsense revenue with them.

However, a has also raised quite a storm in the teacup since people are speculating that Google will take undue advantage of its search traffic to drive usage of knol. Google has pretty much become the traffic policeman of the new web — telling people where to go, and getting them there through its vast knowledge of the contours of the internetland. However, as is often the case in India, what do you do when lawmakers become lawbreakers? When a cop’s car breaks traffic rules, do you give them a ticket? While I am hopeful Google will not quite reach the level of Indian police (or even Bennet, Coleman & Co.), but the question of Knol getting undue advantage (as against the much better established Wikipedia) can not be brushed aside.

The importance of Google’s dominance of the web came to the fore front yesterday during a discussion at the Open Coffee Club’s first meeting in Kolkata yesterday. Angshuman of Taragana complained that he had a hard time when Google dropped him out of their indexes for some reason he is yet to figure out. While he has several conjectures such as his wordpress translation plugin due to Google might have labelled all his pages as duplicate/spam, or changing his URL syntax using mod_rewrite, he couldn’t really figure out what the problem was. Using the webmaster tools wasn’t much help either. Finally, the way he resolved it was by telling the Google representative that he would stop his Adsense spending if his website wasn’t restored — he claims that is the only thing that works with Google. Being dumped by Google indices is quite scary for any website owner, almost like not being reachable from the Start button on a windows box, and there needs to be better mechanism to deal with such ‘mistakes’.

Microsoft has often been accused of using its Windows strength to push its other services, and now Google could do the same. While Google has been the poster child of the internet, and we all continue to use its services in good faith, ignoring trespasses into content creation space, brushing aside its transgressions as mere mistakes — one can hear whispers today and one expects them to soon transform into noises. The onus is on Google to uphold its “don’t be evil” philosophy, and communicate its positive action proactively to the rest of the world. It has already done well for the last few years, but the time has come to be more open, more forthcoming, and more accommodating, or might find itself in the same boat as what Microsoft, AT&T and other monopolies have been in the past.

About kpowerinfinity
I *♥* technology, business, conversations, experiences, books, music, theater, coffee and people. I am an entrepreneur in the city of Bangalore - my company, Capillary, provides customer engagement programs and marketing services to retailers around the world.

6 Responses to Google, SEO, Knol and the rest of the world

  1. lev says:

    A very important issue here, I think. Not understanding much about information law, I can not make any claims. But it seems quite clear to me that Google’s forray’s into content hosts falls somewhere where ‘conflict of interest’ is a very plausible case against them.

    Given most of their search and ranking technology, even crawling, is properietory, most of us depend on Google’s supposed reputation of dont be evil.

    The propblem being that they are the gatekeepers of the information space. And sooner than later it would be very easy for them to censor and restrict content that seems harmful to them.

    This surely needs much dicussion, policy reforms and for Google to move towards a more open ranking system.

  2. Ramanathan says:

    There is a thin line between unfair use of your other resources, and providing a satisfying experience for the end user. As a service provider, Google does reserve the right to provide what it feels is the best option for the end user.

    Having spent a summer at Google, I feel that they do their utmost best to stick with the ‘Dont be Evil’ policy. But as they grow, they inevitably run into situations where someone is going to point his finger and say Google burned him.

    If Knol(and other google services) are held to the same standards as any other page, by the Google search engine, I think that’s fair enough. However, this is simpler said than done :).

  3. Binit says:

    Well that’s true that Google ,if they want, can potentially be a gate keeper and can make fool of most of the dumb net users for their profit.
    But then this can be said about any big fish in the market.Search engines and internet itself , by their nature are open to every one.Its not like your operating system that you can’t do anything without it. There are so many search engine ,almost one coming up each month , Google can’t take its user granted. Its in the best interest of Google to stick with “don’t be evil”. On the other hand I have never seen them doing any such things.s far as the particular case you mentioned , it could very well be a mistake (both from Google or the site owner) . Such things doesn’t send any signal of google being evil.

    Now coming to Knol , I kind of did not expect this from Google.Wikipedia is a great site and has a huge knowledge base and one the reason behind it I think is its openness. I am not sure how many “experts” will be there to write a page on small small topics, and well most of time you just need information not the “expert” information. I am fine with Knol if it doesn’t compete with Wikipedia else….

  4. Karthik Kambatla says:

    Google is to search and Wikipedia is to wiki. It is very hard for any new company to replace Google at search and I would say that holds for Wikipedia as well. It would take a very long time if at all they do.

    We do NOT have an option to assume Google is going to stick to its policy of “Don’t be evil”. Personally, I don’t see a reason for them to be evil. There is very less chance of they making obscene amounts of money out of someone’s data without breaking information laws.

    Regarding getting dropped of the index, it could just be a loss of disk.

  5. Sumit Ramani says:

    Cool blog!!

  6. Angsuman Chakraborty says:

    I didn’t threaten Google. Also we don’t spend in AdSense but actually get money from them.
    I have heard that AdWords customers have successfully used the tactics mentioned.

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