Google acquired wiki software maker JotSpot in October 2006 and the world has since been waiting for Google to rationalize JotSpot's assets and put them in front of the public. The wait is over.
Google Feb. 28 introduced Google Sites, a free wiki application that lets users with little or no technical know-how create a Web site, intranet or virtual classroom where knowledge workers or students can share information and collaborate on projects.
Scott Johnston, product manager for Google Sites and a former vice president at JotSpot, told eWEEK in a briefing that the foundation code in Google Sites is still JotSpot, but the user interface and various Apps integrations are all new from Google.
Users sign up by verifying their business or school e-mail addresses, and can then invite others to join or find people within their organization already using Google Apps.
Users can upload a variety of content to the Web site, which is managed by the site creator within a workgroup or classroom, and invite other users to access it. Content can include videos from YouTube, Google Calendar, Google Docs presentations and attachments. Any user within the group or classroom can edit the content, provided he or she is given permission by the site creator.
While JotSpot lacked quality search, Google has integrated its search capabilities into Google Sites, rendering all content instantly searchable, Johnston said.
Because Google Sites is, like all other Google Apps, hosted on Google's servers, Google Sites scales to any size of organization or university.
Google Sites is available in the Team, Standard, Premier and Education Editions of Google Apps. All but the Premier Edition are free. Companies pay $50 per user per year for Premier, which includes support and storage. Existing Google Apps administrators can enable Google Sites immediately from the Google Apps control panel.
Google Sites is a reprieve for people tired of e-mailing documents, presentations, attachments and other files to coworkers and classmates, Johnston said.
"There aren't really any highly available tools that allow you to easily bring everything together," he said.
Google Sites will compete with wikis from Socialtext, Atlassian, Traction Software and a slew of other providers. It could also serve as a free alternative to collaboration products such as Microsoft's SharePoint and IBM's Lotus Quickr.
Collaboration software analysts particularly noted the emergence of Google Sites as an alternative to software from IBM and Microsoft.
Forrester Research analyst Erica Driver said Google Sites will increase the attractiveness of Google Apps to corporate IT groups that have been tracking Google for the past year and comparing the service-based model of Google Apps Premier Edition against more expensive on-premises collaboration platforms from traditional vendors like IBM and Microsoft.
Nucleus Research Vice President Rebecca Wettemann said she was able to put together a Web site with pictures, videos and gadgets using Google Sites in just 30 minutes.
Wettemann offered a theory as to why the JotSpot assets took so long to materialize in offerings from Google.
"The delay may have been a calculated move by Google to have Docs, Spreadsheets and Presentations out and available as users look to add documents. Google Sites encourages them to add Google Apps documents, so it may drive greater exploration of the other Google Apps."