Jason Calacanis is founder and CEO of Mahalo, and founded and ran both Weblogs Inc. and the Silicon Alley Reporter.
Knol stands for "unit of Knowledge" and it's a very well-designed Wikipedia/Mahalo style content publishing play. It's very similar to the New York Times' forgotten About.com, Seth Godin's spam-filled Squidoo, the flawed-but-fascinating Wikipedia, and of course my new project Mahalo.com.
Many of the biggest and best companies today have Google as their top source of traffic. Reportedly digg is 50% Google traffic, About.com 85%, and Wikipedia 70% Google traffic. That means that people don't go to these sites directly, as much as they go to Google and do a search and click on their result.
It seems that Google, the greatest web-business ever created, is not satisfied with owning over 70% of search--now they want to own the first couple of pages in their search results. So, if you're digg.com, About.com, NYTimes.com, and Wikipedia you're faced with not only being traffic-dependent on Google, you're now competing with them for the traffic within their search result.
They've been an amazing partner to me. The revenue from Google Adsense reached over one million a year for Weblogs, Inc. when we were still a private company. The $4,000 a day we were making paid our bloggers' salaries and gave me the biggest win of my life.