Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Google Sites - Did it miss the mark?

In case you missed the press release, Google has re-introduced JotSpot, a Wiki-like technology they purchased a year ago as "Google Sites".

You can read more about it on the Official Google Blog:


The idea behind Google Sites is to compete with Microsoft's costly SharePoint Services which can be difficult and costly to setup and maintain. The initial intent is to give business users and schools an easy way to setup intranet portals.

The main site includes links to several samples but the main example they are pushing for the IT sector is the "Eggplant Project" site:


This site showcases how you can use Google Sites to share Project information throughout your team including timelines, milestones, a Project Calendar via Google Calendar and even a Document Repository and Presentations via Google Docs.

All in all, this seems like a really good idea but there are some issues.

First and foremost is sharing, specifically Public Sharing of sites and pages. At the moment, Google Sites does not allow different "sharing" levels at the page level so if you want something available to the public then everything in the site needs to be "public".

Another issue I found with it is that you can not setup a domain to point to an individual site. Google Apps allows you to setup the main login page with a Custom Domain so you can host it on for example:


But that will only lead your viewers to a login screen and not to a specific site. This limitation is really irritating because the Google Sites application makes it easy to setup a web site and could easily be used to build public facing web sites but there is no way to actually do that.

At first I attempted to setup the alias of www.MySite.com but that wouldn't work. I noticed that all sites were listed with the following format:


No matter how you setup your Custom URL within Google Apps, this is how your site will be accessed. I thought maybe you could do something like this:


Unfortunately that doesn't work either. This was very dissapointing, not to mention frustrating.

In the end what I ended up doing is creating a single "home" page using Google Pages via Google Apps and then I setup a link there to go to the long sites.google.com address.

Keep in mind, this experiment happened to be for a personal web site and not for a business which is who Google is currently targeting with Google Sites.

It works, but for me, they missed a chance at greatness with their current offering.

On a completely different side though, I am working on setting up a "Project" portal using Google Sites for the Development Project I am currently working on. I am doing this just as a test. In this case, I don't want people outside the company to see it so I am fine with the limitations.

If my corporate tests work as expected, I will work with other teams to get "project" sites setup for them and maybe eventually use Google Sites to create a full Intranet. Now that might seem to be too lofty (read "foolish") an idea but theoretically it could work.

So far I will have to say that I am happy with Google Apps and its offerings but there are many limitations and you can easily tell that different Teams worked on different parts of this whole package and the level of integration isn't always the same nor is the GUI the same accross the applications.

I love the tools Blogspot/Blogger gives you to customize your Blog to include different HTML Snippets such as RSS Feeds and even Google Adsense so you can make some money off of your blog but these little niceties aren't quite as polished in Google Sites or Google Pages.

Hopefully Google will re-group and start incorporating the same features and integration within their many applications to make a nice cohesive system.

I'll keep you posted on my findings.

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