Google Sites Finally Launches

googlesites-logo.pngWe know that wikis can be incredibly useful. But for some reason we’re still trying to figure out, collaborating groups haven’t jumped on the bandwagon. It’s no surprise that Google wanted to be a player in this space with their acquisition of Jotspot in 2006. We’ve been patiently waiting to see how Google would finally make wikis relevant and approachable to the every day user.

The guessing is over with today’s long-awaited launch of Google Sites.

The application is the first Google service deployed exclusively for Google Apps, free in Team, Standard, Education and Premier editions. If your organization is not already using Google Apps, you’ll need to at least sign up for Google Team edition to use Sites.

Anyone who has ever created or edited a Google Doc will feel right at home in Google Sites.

To get started, Google provides some basic templates and themes, with very easy page creation and linking.

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Users do not need to know any markup language to edit pages, one of the biggest drawbacks of most wiki applications. Google Sites borrows the familiar WYSIWYG toolbar from Google Docs.

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Using the “Insert” menu, you can embed elements from other Google properties such as calendar, Picasa albums, documents, YouTube videos and more.

Similar to Google Docs, you can opt to share your Google Sites within your company, with the world or not at all. The entire application environment is clean and straightforward, and not at all intimidating to those who have never edited a site before.

Google Sites is a simple way for groups to build their intranet or publish uncomplicated pages. The appeal of Google Sites is in how easy it is for groups who are already using Google Apps to adopt it into their workflow without learning any HTML or special wiki language. The barrier of users having to store yet another login and learn their way around yet another site is essentially eliminated. While some will inevitably complain that the service doesn’t have this or that feature, Google Site’s tight integration with Google’s other products is an extremely smart way to get existing users on board quickly.

Storage size varies across different editions of Google Apps. Domains of Google Apps Standard and Team editions receive 10GB of Google Sites storage. Premier Edition and Education Edition domains receive a minimum of 10GB, plus an additional 500MB for each user account in the domain.

It appears that new Google Apps domains can start using Google Sites right away, while existing customers will automatically see the new service in their accounts in a few weeks. While Google’s press pages said Sites would be available to existing domains in a few weeks, in fact it’s available now. Current Google App administrators can find Google Sites simply by clicking the “Add More Services” link on their administrator dashboard.

What do you think of Google Sites? Was it worth the wait?

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