Yesterday, Jimmy Wales tweeted that Google was donating $2 million to the Wikimedia Foundation. The question that then popped up in everyone’s minds is, Why Google would support Wikipedia when they came out with their own (almost) direct competitor, Knol.
When Google launched Knol in 2007, everyone called it the “Wikipedia Killer”. Three years on, Knol still exists, but it definitely has not take away from Wikipedia, in fact its launch and failure may have even created more credibility for Wikipedia. Wikipedia still features as the first link on various wide ranging topics, from Bill Gates to Acupuncture to Battle of the Somme. At the moment there are even related searches on SERPs that suggest people are typing in things like “digital tv wiki” in order to get the Wikipedia definition as the first link.
This is the main difference between Wiki and Knol is that you are the sole author of anything you write, you don’t have to be objective or give credible citations, you can also add AdSense ads and “revenue share” with Google. Knol is open to everyone and unlike Wiki you can’t edit other people’s Knols. You are in control of the edits for your Knol which people can suggest changes to or to use the Google phrase, “collaborate” on.
Maybe Google made this charitable move because Bing is listed as one of the benefactors on the Wikimedia Foundation. Maybe it is because Google has realised 70% of Wikipedia’s traffic was generated from Google. Maybe it is because they hope to get a share out of Wikipedia’s success having been sat in the Top 10 US websites for three years running. Time will tell, the press release is due to come out later today.
18/02/10 Update: The answer is less sinister than everyone thought, here is the Official Press Release