You’ll be forgiven if you’d forgotten about Google Knol, an online encyclopedia project begun with much fanfare as a “Wikipedia killer” in 2007.Thus, when Google ended its sponsorship of the project last week, some folk’s first reaction was “it isn’t dead already?”
Many in the mass media and tech press thought this site would become the place to go for solid basic information on the Internet. After all, Knol was backed by the most popular brand on the Internet and written by peer-reviewed professionals, clearly to be trusted more than the hive mind producing Wikipedia.
Clearly that didn’t happen, nor would it be the first time the collective punditry of the universe was wrong about something, either. But this post is not an obituary for a failed project, nor is it a victory celebration for Wikipedia and the hive mind. I want to briefly look forward, and suggest that the project might now see new life.
You see, Knol authors are being offered the opportunity to continue their project on WordPress, by way of the Annotum Project. As the original Knol site fades away (no new content after May 1, 2012; closure in October 2012), Knol authors can choose to move their existing articles to WordPress.com, or set up their own Annotum sites using self-hosted WordPress. Of course, this means that Knol authors are less likely to be isolated off in their own little part of the Internet (where they could be easily forgotten), and become part of the broad and lively WordPress community. Could be good for all of us!
Meanwhile, it’s been a week since the announcement by Google and WordPress, and it appears that Annotum may prove to be a rebirth, not a final resting place for Knol. The beginnings of an infrastructure for Annotum are coming together:
- In the first week, the Annotum base theme has been downloaded more than 5500 times from WordPress.org.
- A support site is live at UserVoice, with a knowledge base and a small bit of feedback.
- Annotum even has “Annotum2Go” packages at GitHub that will set up a web server on Windows and Mac machines and configure WordPress/Annotum sites.
Recognizing that this bit of optimism might also end up entirely wrong, I intend to follow the project’s progress, and see what happens. I might even contribute a WordPress or openSUSE article at some point.
If you’re a Knol author, welcome to the WordPress community! I really want to know what you think about the future of the project. Are you sad that Google pulled the plug? Are you surprised that you didn’t transition to another (say, more Googlish) platform? I know of at least one person who is. Will Annotum meet your (individual and collective) needs? Will the Peter Arno article ever be finished?
Other comments on Knol and Annotum appreciated too.