The Spring Cleaning Continues: Google Shuts Down Knol, Lets Its Users Migrate to WordPress

Google today announced the next round of closures in its continuing effort to shut down underperforming services. Most of the services Google is shutting down this time around were either more or less closed already or never got any traction anyway. Among these are Google Bookmark Lists, the Google Search Timeline (replaced by Google Trends and Search Insights), Google Wave (which was sunset about a year ago and will now actually be shut down) and its Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal initiative. The more high-profile shutdowns affect Google Knol, its failed Wikipedia competitor, and Google Friend Connect.

Friend Connect has been mostly superseded by Google+ and its badges now, so this announcement doesn’t come as a major shock. As for Knol, which launched in 2008, I’m actually surprised Google kept it running for as long as it did.

knol shuts down

Goodbye Knol

For a while know, I had been wondering how long Google would continue to support Knol. Now we know. Google is shutting down Knol, effective May 1, 2012. Its users will be able to more their articles to or a self-hosted WordPress install using a  new, custom-designed theme called Annotum. This new theme will allow Knol users to import their data from Knol.

While Knol never gained any traction among consumers (and was never prominently featured in Google’s own search results), a number of institutional users made good use of it over the years. Among these were a number of science organizations, including the Public Library of Science (PLoS).

WordPress As a Viable Scientific Publishing Platform

Interestingly, this move will now also make WordPress a better platform for publishing scientific articles. Among other things, Annotum will allow users to “import and export NLM/PubMed Journal Article DTD and other structured formats” and will provide out-of-the box support for citations, references and other features that are specific to scientific publishing.

Google worked closely with WordPress/Automattic and Solvitor LLC to make this transition possible and to create the Annotum WordPress theme.