“Assuming that Google treats Knol just like it treats other Web sites, it is just another company out there producing content,” said Richard Rosenblatt, the chief executive of Demand Media, a fast-growing online company that owns how-to content sites like eHow and ExpertVillage.
Mr. Rosenblatt, who was the chief executive of Intermix Media, the parent of MySpace when it was sold to the News Corporation , said that if Knol became a popular Web destination, he would consider posting content from Demand Media’s sites on it. The company, like many others in the media business, posts many of its videos on YouTube.
“We have an enormous amount of traffic on YouTube,” Mr. Rosenblatt said. “It hasn’t cannibalized ExpertVillage.”
Other media companies, like WebMD, have already begun posting their content on Knol.
“We participated in Google Knol as a test, as we’ve done with other, similar offerings,” a WebMD spokeswoman, Jennifer Newman, said in an e-mail message. “We are evaluating its effectiveness in further building brand awareness for WebMD .”
Ms. Millard, the Martha Stewart executive, said she had considered posting content on Knol but decided against it. “You are continuing to build their business if you do that, versus building your own.”
Google’s growing reach into the content business could create conflicts similar to those faced by Microsoft in its dual role as a provider of an operating system that others run their software applications on and a maker of applications, Mr. Calacanis said. It is possible that with YouTube, Knol, Blogger and other company sites, Google could take 3 of the top 10 results in some searches, he added. That could alienate Web publishers that are Google’s advertising partners, even if there is no indication that Google artificially favored its sites, he said.
While Google helps drive the success of other content providers, it is clear that the company will not shy away from entering what it considers “high-value” content areas, said David B. Yoffie, a professor at the Harvard Business School.
“If I am a content provider and I depend upon Google as a mechanism to drive traffic to me, should I fear that they may compete with me in the future?” Professor Yoffie asked. “The answer is absolutely, positively yes.”
Google has appeared even-handed with search queries, Professor Yoffie said. But he, too, believes that if Google further expands into content, it will meet some of the conflicts Microsoft faced more than a decade ago.
“A lot of the issues that we saw play out between Microsoft and its ecosystem in the 1990s will play out again between Google and its ecosystem,” he said.