Nick Carr used the moniker Googlepedia which I think in one word sums up the essence of Google's Knol announcement. This makes a lot of sense for Google. Over 70% of Wikipedia's page views originate from a Google search. And, Wikipedia is the number one search result for LOTs of queries. As Nick Carr pointed out, this trend is increasing. Wikipedia is the trusted source for unbiased, up to date, information on almost any subject.
Danny Sullivan at SearchEngineLand got a look at the Knol service, see the screen shot below, and says this about Knol;
Google Knol is designed to allow anyone to create a page on any topic, which others can comment on, rate, and contribute to if the primary author allows. The service is in a private test beta. You can't apply to be part of it, nor can the pubic see the pages that have been made. Google also stressed to me that what's shown in the screenshots it provided might change and that the service might not launch at all.
Udi Manber, Google VP of Engineering wrote a blog today about Knol, and describes it this way;
The key idea behind the knol project is to highlight authors. Books have authors' names right on the cover, news articles have bylines, scientific articles always have authors -- but somehow the web evolved without a strong standard to keep authors names highlighted. We believe that knowing who wrote what will significantly help users make better use of web content. At the heart, a knol is just a web page; we use the word "knol" as the name of the project and as an instance of an article interchangeably. It is well-organized, nicely presented, and has a distinct look and feel, but it is still just a web page. Google will provide easy-to-use tools for writing, editing, and so on, and it will provide free hosting of the content. Writers only need to write; we'll do the rest.
A knol on a particular topic is meant to be the first thing someone who searches for this topic for the first time will want to read. The goal is for knols to cover all topics, from scientific concepts, to medical information, from geographical and historical, to entertainment, from product information, to how-to-fix-it instructions. Google will not serve as an editor in any way, and will not bless any content. All editorial responsibilities and control will rest with the authors. We hope that knols will include the opinions and points of view of the authors who will put their reputation on the line. Anyone will be free to write. For many topics, there will likely be competing knols on the same subject. Competition of ideas is a good thing.