A couple of quick thoughts on Google in the Knol age

29 July 2008

Although Seth Finkelstein has debunked the idea that Knol is being promoted too heavily in Google's search listings, a lot of people reckon that the number-one search engine is rapidly losing its way. That Knol is a big mistake that results from policies that favour Google's ad business over its search service.

Knol is a magnet for the get-rich-quick brigade who reckon they can siphon off a load of money through ads for dodgy health supplements. It might work as a competitor to Squidoo, Mahalo and even Wikipedia. But, a lot will depend on the image that Knol attracts in the short term. It's got a good chance of becoming the .info of information and quick reference sites, where the only people who show up are spammers with slightly more original content.

But does that matter to Google? Regarding Google's business as being in search is a mistake. It's an advertising business. And one of the unfortunate drivers of the online classified ad business that the company now effectively dominates is that a bunch of people are only too happy to click on ads for the 'health supplements', teeth whiteners and other kind of products being actively promoted on Knol pages. They may well be the most active ad-clickers around.

There's a good chance that Google will make more cash out of the dodgier Knol pages than the ones designed to look more like entries in an encyclopedia.

People are misreading Google's slogan, "Don't be evil". It's not a slogan. It's an admonishment to those sucking on the Adsense teat: "Don't be evil...or we'll kick you off the search results pages. You can be a bit naughty, mind."

While things are good for Google, nobody will really care:

"You show them you have in you something that is really profitable, and then there will be no limits to the recognition of your ability. Of course you must take care of the motives - right motives - always." - Mr Kurtz, Heart of Darkness


I think we may all be missing the point of Google. It was a search enging business. It evolved into and advertising business, but it was the search engine business the financed the transition. Google is about to morph again-- within the next 5 years I'd say -- into a telecommunications business, financed by advertising. From Telecommunications it is going to target entertainment.

Google, for lack of a better term, is a financial virus, constantly evolving and taking over new hosts.

That's one way of looking at it. However, search never financed Google: it had no way of collecting revenue on search. VCs and an IPO financed it until the traffic had grown far enough for the ad-supported model to work organically.