When Google first announced Knol in 2007, many technology analysts and bloggers believed that Knol would kill Wikipedia. Well, they were wrong because Google announced today that they're killing it.
"I think Knol is probably our biggest threat since the creation of Wikipedia," former Wikimedia Foundation Chair Florence Devouard wrote to the Wikipedia community in 2007. "I really mean the biggest. Maybe not so much the project itself, but the competition it will create, the PR consequences, the financial tsunami, the confusion in people minds (free as in free speech or as in free of charge)."
Google first started testing Knol to "help improve web content by enabling experts to colllaborate on in-depth articles," the Google blog states. But the content wasn't that impressive. Harry McCracken of Technologizer writes that the homepage items were "mostly a bit odd, a bit spammy, or both." Google let Knol languish as Jason Kincaid of TechCrunch notes, and the site experienced downtime in July 2010.
While Knol will no longer continue to exist as an individual product, users can migrate their knols to Annotum, a hosted theme on Wordpress that lets users publish articles and journals, through Oct. 1, 2012.
Although Knol had a good run, it did not successfully replace Wikipedia like The Guardian tech reporter Jack Schofield thought.
"As well as being an attack on Wikipedia, Knol represents an attack on the media industry in general," Jack wrote on The Guardian tech blog in Dec. 2007.
Steve Rubel, an executive at Edelman PR, agreed with both Devouard and Schofield.
"My initial take on this is that knols are going to kill Wikipedia - but it will take time," Steve wrote on his blog in December 2007. "This theory, however, hinges on whether people actually start creating knols, but I believe they will. Here are several reasons why Wikipedia and Wikia are dead …"
That same month, TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington wrote, "Very soon we are going to see a lot of Wikipedia content moving wholesale to Knol...So, in a way, Google has found a way to monetize Wikipedia content after all."
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, on the other hand, suggested in 2008 that users would probably copy Knol content and bring it to Wikipedia for free.
He even said, "We don't even think in terms of competition and things like that."
Wikipedia has 11.5M+ articles across 10 languages -- 3.8M+ (33%) in English -- while Knol has a mere 1.3M+ articles in English.
Earlier this month, Google co-founder Sergey Brin donated $500K to support Wikipedia, so it's not a huge shocker that Google decided to ditch Knol.
In addition to Knol, Google killed off Google Wave, Google Gears, Google Friend Connect, Google Bookmarks Lists and the Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal initiative. Since Google CEO Larry Page got on board, the company has shut down products and services such as Aardvark, Buzz, Google Labs and Google Desktop.