Knol is Google trying to recreate Squidoo or Helium, not an encyclopedia. Wikipedia is #8 on Alexa, Squidoo is #431, Helium is #4999 and only Google knows how well Knol is actually doing. I mean, I was incredibly impressed when I first joined Wikipedia in early 2004 that it was #500. But nevertheless. At least about.com makes #86.
(In fairness, Google has never pushed Knol as a Wikipedia killer; that’s entirely a media-created synthetic controversy.)
There’s hardly a “Wikipedia replacement” that hasn’t started from trying to make a welcoming environment for authors. Wikipedia, however, is popular because it’s what readers want. Writers are important, but way less so than the readers.
I’ve seen very few Wikipedia replacements or even forks that aim primarily at creating a better resource for the reader, and leave the rest to happen. Citizendium is the only one that springs to mind — CZ is very reader-oriented, and slowly accumulating lots of good stuff. It also expressly tries for good writing, unlike Wikipedia.
If readers wanted ten articles on one topic, they’d just click the first ten Google hits. It’s like metasearch engines that gave you results from ten bad pre-Google search engines in the hope you might find a damn thing, when the real answer was one search engine that didn’t suck. Tell you what, the main value of Cuil is to explain to the kids how bad search engines were before Google got it right. One good resource kills ten mediocre resources.
Leaving the editors to battle it out to collaboratively create the one article on a topic appears to have worked to give readers the simple quick reference site they actually want to use. Inherent unreliability and all. Discuss.