JotSpot is back as Google Sites; should Microsoft worry?

Posted on February 28, 2008 9:27 am by | Intranets | Wikis

I’m in the process of preparing a press release (both conventional and social media versions) that needs input from a few organizations as well as some individuals who aren’t affiliated with these organizations. Rather than attach a Word document to an email, I set up a secure one-page wiki at PBwiki, where each of the players is able to jump in and revise to their heart’s content, each one seeing what the previous one has done.

That was yesterday. If I had set up the wiki today, I probably would have done it at Google Sites.

That’s not a slam at PBwiki, which offers a terrific service. But Google Sites, which launches today, is the reincarnation of JotSpot, a feature-rich wiki service that Google bought back in October 2006. While it has taken a while for Google to integrate JotSpot into its Google Apps suite, I’m looking forward to kicking the tires. Neville Hobson and I wrote our book, “How to Do Everything with Podcasting, on a JotSpot wiki, which is also where we coordinated everything from the contract to revisions with our agent. It worked exceedingly well.

Google has done away with the term “wiki,” seeking to make the service more attractive to the non-geek crowd, and shows on its site the various uses to which Google Sites can be put, including intranets, team projects, and employee profiles. It’s a bit of a stretch to suggest a hosted wiki could substitute for a robust intranet, but Google Sites could certainly provide a small company with a simple means of getting an intranet up and running, especially given the features that can be included. Any other Google product can be integrated into a Sites page, such as YouTube videos, Picasa photos, Google calendars, and Google docs.

Google’s idea of what a Site intranet would look like appears below:

Shel Holtz

Most of the commentary so far suggests that the addition of Sites to the Apps suite is a direct assault on Microsoft Sharepoint. Maybe, but it’ll be a long, long time before a hosted service eats into Microsoft’s market share. The key issue in most organizations is precisely the fact that the service is hosted.

A typical IT response to the notion of introducing social media tools to the intranet focuses on the time and expense involved in testing new applications to ensure compatibility with existing software. If you suggest that the social media tools can be hosted offsite, the odds are pretty good that you’ll be told the information those sites would contain is too sensitive to risk maintaining it outside the firewall.

(This excuse is pretty lame, given that every single one of the US-based companies that has raised this concern in my experience also maintains its employee 401(k) data on a hosted server.)

One reason Sharepoint is so popular these days is that the 2007 version includes social media functionality—blogs, wikis, social networks, RSS, the works. These tools—while not the best looking or most flexible in the world—can be activated simply and without risking any kind of conflict with mission-critical software already running behind the firewall. Organizations like Wachovia—the fourth-largest bank in the US—are relying on Sharepoint to get their Enterprise 2.0 tools up and running quickly.

Others are turning to vendors offering suites of social media tools for the enterprise, like Traction Software and Awareness Networks. A Forrester Report issued earlier this month suggests that smaller vendors—many offering hosted solutions—are able to provide companies with what they want right now, while IBM and Microsoft are offering bits and pieces while still building complete solutions.

In the report—“Web 2.0 Pure Plays Might Be The Right Answer For Your Organization”—author Rob Koplowitz and his team point out:

The fact that Web 2.0 firms are smaller does not mean that they don’t understand what it takes to provide solutions to the neterprise. There are a number of vendors in the enterprise WEb 2.0 space…that not only understand security, privacy, policy management, and integration requirements of enterprises,but they also are ready to demonstrate that their offerings can exceed the new needs of enterprises.”

These services can also do a lot more than Sites, such as integrating employee blogs and enterprise-level RSS into the mix…as can Sharepoint.

All of which means that there are a lot of options out there. The fact that Sharepoint is already inside many organizations means it’s likely to remain a strong player—most organizations are loathe to dismiss such a considerable investment just because better or coolers alternatives emerge, which is why Lotus Notes still runs in so many companies—and there are other options that address the security and integration issues that are top-of-mind for IT departments. If Google is making a run at Sharepoint by introducing its wikis-not-called-wikis, I doubt it’ll enjoy much short-term success.

Not that Google Apps couldn’t do the job, just that IT departments want more than what Apps offers. Still, I’m delighted to see JotSpot return in its new form and I’m sure I’ll be using it again as soon as the need arises.

I expect to see more small organizations and non-business entities using Google Sites.

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  • 1.Very nice write up Shel. I have a Google Apps account for my personal domain and I plan on building a test site this weekend to see how well Google Sites can meet the needs of an average user.

    Rob Safuto | February 2008 | Woodstock, NY

  • 2.Regarding off-site hosting, IT in my Canadian province can marshal up more than a 'lame excuse' that information is too sensitive to be hosted off-site.

    No matter how useful Google Apps are, the law in British Columbia prevents the public sector from hosting data on US servers. Too many USA Patriot Act complications and fear by patients and staff that their information will fall into the hands of the FBI.

    David | February 2008 | Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

  • 3.Excellent point, David! That settles it for the use of Google Apps and several other hosted services. What about hosted solutions in Canada, though? Also, it makes one think that Google, Awareness Networks and others will consider international affiliates so content can be hosted on servers within the boundaries of the nation in question.

    Shel Holtz | February 2008 | Concord, CA

  • 4.Microsoft should be quite worried by these new developments. They have been going down in following recently because of the decline in their performances.

    Ajit | February 2008

  • 5.Shel,

    Thanks for the shout out to PBwiki! I would love it if you were to post a comparison between Google Sites and PBwiki once you've had a chance to check out both products.

    While I think Google Sites has done a great job of Google-izing JotSpot, a lot of Jot's old functionality has gone by the wayside, and I think you'll find that PBwiki is still a better product.

    Even better, I can get you into the beta test for PBwiki 2.0, which adds a bunch of new functionality that are designed to help larger organizations collaborate.

    Let me know if you're interested!

    Chris Yeh | February 2008 | San Mateo, CA

  • 6.Looks interesting but I wonder if it will fly, I'm going to set one up just to see how it works.

    CBR | March 2008

  • 7.Thanks, Chris. As a matter of fact, after just a couple days since the announcement, I've read some pretty scathing reviews of Sites, including one from Dennis Howlett, whose opinion I respect a lot. Another reason, I suspect, the folks at Microsoft aren't losing too much sleep.

    I'd love to see PBWiki 2.0.

    Shel Holtz | March 2008 | Concord, CA

  • 8.Shel,

    You can now check out PBwiki 2.0. Just set up a new wiki, and sign up for the 2.0 beta. Enjoy, and let me know what you think!

    Chris Yeh | March 2008 | San Mateo, CA

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