Google’s announcement of Knol shows that they understand some of their key business drivers very well; With as much as 5% of the search result links for popular terms going to Wikipedia pages, a solution to capturing some of that traffic in an environment that Google can control and display ads on makes good business sense. The idea of sharing the earnings from that content with authors is also good business sense. But as with Google Pages (Page Creator), Blogger, Google Notebook, JotSpot, Google Docs/Writely and other tools, Google has not proven that it understands content creation and publishing as well as it understands its core businesses of search and advertising, or even its ancillary tools for communication and collaboration.
Worse, Knol shares with Google Book Search the problem of being both indexed by Google and hosted by Google. This presents inherent conflicts in the ranking of content, as well as disincentives for content creators to control the environment in which their content is published. This necessarily disadvantages competing search engines, but more importantly eliminates the ability for content creators to innovate in the area of content presentation or enhancement. Anything that is written in Knol cannot be presented any better than the best thing in Knol.
…given that page rank algorithms are proprietary, I can’t wait to see what happens when Knol articles are “magically” higher in rank than the About and Wikipedia equivalents.