In order to try out Google Sites today, I signed up for a Google Apps account. Some background/definitions first:
- Google Apps: a suite of google applications: email, docs, and now sites, for groups and organizations, which can run on the top level of your domain. So for example I could have email@example.com which actually uses the gmail service, or use google sites to run futuretoby.com
- Google Sites: Google's new hosted wiki service. This has been brewing for a while seen they acquired JotSpot, and frankly I've expecting this for a long time. And in many ways, Google Sites is similar to my wiki.
There's been long a need for an easy to use mainstream wiki implementation, and Google is the obvious candidate to try to do it. Editing in Google Sites is all WYSWYG, unless you want to drop down to HTML editing. They have in-place editing - similar to mine - meaning that the text is in the same place whether you are in view mode or edit mode, plus there's no refresh of the page. But unlike mine, save always brings you back to view mode, and going into edit mode is quite slow. They have directory structures, meaning you can nest pages under other pages, making the parent page like directories. Permission control is full featured. There are many embeddable widgets, including a picasa slideshow widget! For video, there's only google video and youtube. I think you can probably write your own widgets for it though.
Here are some screen shots:
Overall, I think it's a very good solution to many people, but there are still a couple of things keeping me from migrating to it right now.
- Editing/Blogging is sluggish - I want a snappy feeling when using the site and it's definitely not there. Granted my wiki can be slow to load at times, but that's something I can fix myself, at least.
- A bit too many dialog popups for my taste, again contributes to non-snappiness
- The theme system does not look at good as I want and does not seem to be flexible enough for me to change it.
- This is more minor, but there are tags/labels?
My wiki has been running a bit slow, I thought I had fixed that, will investigate that as soon as I get some time.
Also a thought about the business model behind Google Sites. You have to have Google Apps to use sites, which means its audience will be much more limited than any other similar google product(not everyone has there own "organization"). That's an interesting business decision. One way to look at it is that they are trying to beef up their Google Apps offering to try to get more people signing up and then hopefully paying for it. But that this means is that Google Sites probably won't get to be the mainstream wiki.