There’s a reason Google is worth 150 billion dollars — the company owns the largest and most effective advertising engine on the web. Hundreds of thousands of companies reply on Google search for customer traffic. Wikipedia, a top 10 web property, reportedly receives 70% of its traffic from Google. Companies like mine spend millions of dollars to buy paid search ads and optimize our sites for organic (free) search.
But what happens when Google puts its own content in the search results? Is it fair for the dominant search engine to compete with its customers?
This is exactly what’s happening with one of Google’s new products, called Knol. Knol is essentially Google’s version of Wikipedia. Anyone can write a “knol”, which Google defines as “an authoritative article about a specific topic”. Knols are indexed and displayed in Google search results along with content from the rest of the internet. For example, if you do a Google search for “buttermilk pancakes”, the #4 result is a knol.
Why is this a big deal? Well, students of tech history will remember that this is what Microsoft did to application vendors in the 80’s and 90’s. Jason Calcanis (the CEO of Mahalo, another Wikipedia-like product) posted on this recently:
Microsoft convinced folks to build WordStar, WordPerfect, Lotus 1-2-3, and Quattro Pro for their operating system. They grew that business together until the point that Microsoft had massive market share in operating systems — then Microsoft pulled the rug out from under the
3rd party application vendors.
It seems that Google, the greatest web-business ever created, is not satisfied with owning over 70% of search–now they want to own the first couple of pages in their search results.
Google says they’re not in the content business, but by buying YouTube and launching Knol, they’re starting to walk like a duck.