Now that Google has kicked the tires of its Sites wiki application for a few months, the company is comfortable opening things up a bit.
Originally launched as a wiki for companies that wanted to use the service on their own domains, Google Sites is now available for anyone who wants to set up their own Sites Web site to share information and collaborate with co-workers, or students, Google Sites Engineering Manager Andrew Zaeske wrote in a blog post May 21.
Of course, the domain is still hosted by Google. What? You thought the company was going to let you take this service off its domain?
Then you don't get Google, which excels in keeping people trying new services and getting them to come back again and again. The more you play, the more Google gets paid from users clicking on its paid links.
Users will be able to host their own Web site at http://sites.google.com/[your-website]. Moreover, Google is letting users add as many pages as they like for free.
What's great (and vital) about Sites is that users don't have to be Webheads to create a Site. Users can click a few buttons to create a site and customize fit their own documents, calendars, photos, videos and gadgets into those pages. If you've used Google Docs, you already know how to edit the wikis you create.
First, you'll name the site, and then set permissions to dictate who may edit it, as well as whether or not to make it publicly viewable. Click the create site button and you're off and running with a home page. You'll edit it the way you would a Google Doc, adding attachments, images, links and documents to flesh out your site.
Other page types include dashboards, announcements, files and lists.
Once your site is up and running, you can invite people to edit or view your content; they merely need enter their e-mail address.
What's really impressive is how far Google has taken Sites from its days as JotSpot, when it was a bland, clunky app that choked on code it didn't like. The functionality is similar, but better looking, more robust (the permissions are just granular enough) and super easy to use.