Google launched its long hyped Wikipedia competitor Knol earlier today, but despite being open for editing by all, not all users are being treated equally.
Unlike Wikipedia, Knol works around user identities, both with user profile pages, and through the URL structure. For example, here is my profile page, and here's my page on blogs, both with my name in the URL. Google is promoting the tie-in to profiles as a way to enable experts on particular topics to be easily identified, and couples the profiles with a verification process to make sure the person writing entries is who they say they are. And this is where Knol turns into a two class process.
To verify a user name on Knol, users must verify their account by phone or credit card. I sort of expected Knol to exclude non-US phone verification, so that wasn't a surprise, but the rule applies for credit cards as well. US credit card or cell, or no verification. Canadians are excluded as well.
To try and be a little fair to Google, the service is brand new, and perhaps the logistics of providing verification to the whole planet may be a little challenging, but why implement a verification system at all when only users in the United States can use it? It's not as if Knol is closed to contributions from outside of the United States. Instead, Knol contributors in the United States will now have an unfair advantage in contributions of others, and that does suck, even if its only a little bit.
I also don't understand why in the last couple of years Google has moved from being an inclusive, global player with product launches to being one that excludes people outside of the United States. Google is so immensely popular today globally in part due to its inclusive global product launches where other companies have continued to remain focused on the United States (Yahoo in particular comes to mind).
Google may say Knol is open to everyone, but it's a half arsed approach.