"How many people are going to labor hours and hours for Wikipedia [when it's anonymous]? In this case you're the author and it's your reputation," Saffo said. "I can see this being used for graduate students out of school trying to build a reputation, professors thinking about getting tenure. It's a star-making machine for the right kind of intellectuals."
Knol will even work for people who aren't experts, Saffo said.
"Reputation is a really powerful incentive for people to contribute," he said. "This plays perfectly to the whole notion to the rise of amateurs."
In addition to its "star-making" potential, Knol has an added incentive -- it allows its authors to make money from their writing, Saffo said.
"At the discretion of the author, a knol may include ads," Google posted on its blog. "If an author chooses to include ads, Google will provide the author with substantial revenue share from the proceeds of those ads."
It's way too soon to tell what effect Knol will have on Wikipedia and other sites like it, but when the world's largest search engine and its scoring ability gets behind something, people take notice.
"Wikipedia allows group contribution, but it doesn't allow ranking. ... Google is applying ranking to that. Which method is a better way to show reliability?" Saffo said. "[They're] two very different approaches and each has its advantage."