Web Worker Head to Head: Google Calendar vs. 30Boxes

Keeping with the “Google takes on the world” theme we’ve got going here, this week it’s the battle of the online calendars. There are quite a few contenders we could have selected to take on the Big G…Backpack Calendar, Yahoo Calendar, Airset…to name a few. In the end, 30Boxes won a chance in the ring because in a sense, it started the game. Back in February 2006, it was revolutionary to type “Meeting Barbara tues noon” and have your calendar just know to schedule the appointment on the right date with the right time. Then Google Calendar came along a few months later, forcing the 3-person shop developing 30Boxes to up their game.

So in a bit of a David vs. Goliath match, let’s set an appointment to pit these two calendar applications against each other and see who’s left standing.

30Boxes

Interface-wise, what was innovative 15 months ago appears a little clunky and “unfinished” now. There are many rough edges. But the flat, gray OS X-like look is only a starting point. 30Boxes offers the chance to change themes easily, which is a customization that Google does not offer without help from Greasemonkey scripts in Firefox. Score one jab for the little guys.

30Boxes may have started as just an online calendar, but with the challenge of the monster that is Google, the site has since become more of a personal portal than simply a calendar application. Sure, you can use 30Boxes to set your appointments, but if you’re into the whole social networking thing 30Boxes is all about the sharing. Their motto is “It’s Your Life” and your life is apparently a lot more than your appointments.

It’s all there…every public face you have, you can display on a customized 30Boxes page. Even a Twitter-like “What are you doing?” feed.

30Boxes also lands a solid punch for having a mobile version. It’s incredible that Google still hasn’t figured out how to display their calendar data in a mobile browser.

But after a strong leap out of the corner, 30Boxes starts to get a little wobbly on its feet. In its quest to incorporate every “Web 2.0″ buzz word and site, the company may have lost sight of the fact that it started as a calendar. The calendar itself is no longer innovative now that Google has incorporate the same logic into their offering, and adding calendar feeds is not nearly as intuitive as it could be. In fact, it’s downright painful. Ouch. Blood spilled on the mat here.

Google Calendar

Well, no one will describe Google Calendar as monochromatic. Launching a few months after 30Boxes, Google has continued to update and refine the calendar features. It’s incredibly easy to add multiple calendars to Google Calendar, either native within the application or via iCal feeds. If the rainbow starts making your eyes ache, simply uncheck calendars you don’t have to see all the time in a very iCal (Mac OS X) fashion.

While 30Boxes is about sharing one’s life that happens to include a calendar, Google Calendar is all about the calendar, leaving the other parts of your life to the other applications in the Google stable. In that respect, except for the menu of Google services at the top, Google does a poor job of integrating those services into the calendar. No adding Gmail messages or Picasa photos to an appointment, which seems like a blaring oversight.

Google’s interface is inflexible right out of the box, but you can get around that pretty easily. For working with your calendar data in other web applications, Google offers limited options as compared to 30Boxes which goes out of its way to work with…well, everything.

Both applications offer reminders via SMS, but that’s where Google’s mobile calendar game pretty much ends. You can use your phone, again via SMS, to check events for 24 upcoming hours and you can text events to your calendar. That’s it. If mobile access is a high priority, and you’re not willing to deal with a 3rd party application like GCalSync or GooSync then this might be a knock-out blow.

Once again, the “winner” of this rounds comes down to your priorities. If you’re looking for a way to connect your calendar (small “c”) with all the social/Web 2.0 parts of your life without a lot of interface getting in the way, it’s cheers for 30Boxes. If you’re looking for an all-around dependable online Calendar (large “C”) and you get your social networking fix elsewhere (if at all…since this is about web working), then it’s a solid victory for another Google product.

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