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Dutch vacuum salesman pumps Google for €1m

Iron clogs stands firm over Knol.com

A Dutch vacuum cleaner salesman is demanding a massive payday from Google in exchange for control of his company's web address, Knol.com.

The advertising giant is aiming to end its heavy reliance on Wikipedia for useful search results by brewing its own web encyclopedia, Knol (it's short for knowledge, apparently). The new site differs from Wikipedia's free-for-all/Sum of All Human Knowledge™ editing policy by giving individuals ownership of articles they write, and allowing more than one article on the same topic. It being a Google venture, there's plenty of contextual ads, too.

There can't be many who dare twist Google's arm in a business deal these days, but Hilco Knol, 43, registered Knol.com years ago, long before Google's Wiki-beating plans were made public. His firm uses the address to resell professional steam cleaning equipment.

Acccording to a translation from Dutch newspaper AD, Knol has received a buyout bid carrying five zeros from Mountain View, but he refuses to part with his domain for less than €1m. He said: "It would only be interesting if Google made an offer with six zeros, because the Dutch tax rate of 52 percent would leave too little on the table. An offer in the million Euro range would make things a lot more fun."

When Google first announced Knol in December last year, it hadn't bothered to contact Hilco about the domain, according to a report in WebProNews. He argues that changing all his company stationery and publicity will be an expensive endeavour. In the meantime, visits to Knol.com have rocketed. ®

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