Jotspot Returns As Google Sites: Wiki-Style Collaboration

Posted by: Rob Hof on February 28, 2008

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Ever since Google bought the wiki-based online application startup Jotspot in late 2006, people have been wondering if it had disappeared forever inside the bowels of the search giant. Tonight, Google’s launching Google Sites, using Jotspot’s technology to create a free group collaboration service that will be part of its online software suite Google Apps.

Google characterizes Sites, which had been hinted at in late 2007, as the biggest Apps launch since Apps Premier Edition a year ago, and it may be right. The new service lets people in an organization instantly create a wiki-style group workspace, where they can post text, videos, calendars, and various attachments for their group or department to view and edit. Scott Johnston, Google’s senior product manager on Sites, has more in a blog post and video.

Sites at least nominally competes against Microsoft’s Sharepoint and IBM’s Lotus Notes, among other of those companies’ products. But how much of an impact Sites will have on them, and how soon, remains to be seen. Those products have many more capabilities than Sites, and they have been built to integrate with a lot of existing corporate applications. “Those other vendors have a very rich and very deep collection of applications that Google can’t yet match,” says Forrester Research analyst Erica Driver.

Still, Sites looks to be so easy that it could catch on, viral-fashion, among the many people inside organizations who can’t use or don’t want to go through the hassle of getting on Sharepoint or Lotus Notes—or who don’t want to go through those products’ learning curves. In other words, it might sneak into corporate enterprises the way PCs—and Microsoft applications—did a few decades ago.

Google’s touting some marquee customers such as the Government of the District of Columbia, Zodiac Interactive, and the University of North Caroline at Greensboro. For awhile, though, I think most of the users will be at quite small companies, just as with the rest of Google Apps.

By the way, once IT folks get wind of people using Sites or other Google Apps for corporate use, they can essentially take over management of these services inside their companies. By then, Google’s hoping the Apps will be entrenched enough that IT folks will be compelled to allow people to use them—and maybe look at Google’s other application offerings.

Update: Oops, our blog software had posted this an hour early—sorry, Google! Even though it was up only maybe 10 minutes before I demoted it to draft mode again, this gave more knowledgeable people than I a chance to weigh in. Ross Mayfield of Socialtext and Allen Stern of Center Networks both note, correctly, that the comparison to Sharepoint and Lotus Notes is a stretch at this point(which is why I said they “nominally” compare), though Mike Arrington at TechCrunch notes that Matthew Glotzbach, product management director at Google Enterprise, calls it a “Sharepoint killer.” Not just yet, but when it comes to software, you should never underestimate free and easy.

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Reader Comments

Chris Yeh

February 28, 2008 02:29 AM

Rob,

I've posted thoughts on the Google Sites launch as a comment on Arrington's post here:
http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/02/27/it-took-16-months-but-google-relaunches-jotspot/#comment-2009348

But to summarize, I think that PBwiki shows that it is possible to "sneak" into companies with an easy-to-use on-demand wiki. As an investor and executive, I'm biased, but the numbers are not:

* 450,000 wikis hosted
* More pages than the Wikipedia
* Over 1/3 of the Fortune 500
* Thousands of *paying* customers, including Facebook, Symantec, DePaul University, and the FDA

I do think that it's a stretch to call Google Sites a SharePoint killer, but at least they've identified the right competitor. There is going to be a battle between the on-demand providers and the on-premise providers, and SaaS companies like PBwiki will be fighting with Google against the Microsoft behemoth.

It's like the old days--Google as an underdog!

Sally Wu

February 28, 2008 02:51 AM

The journey started at JotSpot and ended up at Google Sites... was the journey worth it?

Let me know...
http://webpoet.wordpress.com/2008/02/28/jotspot-reborn/

Matthias Zeller

February 28, 2008 09:57 AM

Maybe I am missing something. I am an employee in a large company and want to try Google Sites for my team. I went to the site but it requires to sign up for Google Apps. In order to sign up for Google apps you need to be the administrator for the company domain. So how exactly does that allow me to use the service without contacting IT? Maybe I am missing something, but this looks like a complete show stopper for adoption.

WD

February 28, 2008 10:37 AM

@Matthias: Nothing to stop you from registering a new domain to launch google apps on. Your company may not be happy with you, but Google will be.

Todd Sieling

February 28, 2008 01:24 PM

> othing to stop you from registering a new domain to launch google apps on.

So much for the easy part of 'free and easy'.

Louis Naugès

February 28, 2008 01:35 PM

@Matthias
There is another, simpler solution!
You can register for the new version of Google Apps, called GATE (Google Apps Team Edition)
GATE works with your existing email, so you don't have to ask anything to your IT people. Quick and easy!

Stewart Mader

February 28, 2008 03:00 PM

Is Google's push to abandon the word "wiki" good or bad?
http://www.ikiw.org/2008/02/28/the-nasty-four-letter-word-that-must-be-banished-from-the-web/

Richard Thomas

February 29, 2008 01:55 PM

What might be more interesting is that Google may be secretly involved in a movie called Infinite Play that first movie that blends with reality. Buried in the movie site are terms that specify Google employees cannot participate in the suprises. The leads and clues can be found using Google which is referred to as the Great Oracle. In fact if you Google “infinite play the movie” the links lead one on a great journey.

Eric K Holbrook

February 29, 2008 03:37 PM

One notable issue many, including myself, may have with "Sites" is that in fact, it no longer IS a wiki or has those features. It's like Google Pages with a few extras. And as we all may know (or those who have played with Google Pages), Pages is really pretty pathetic.

I have a hard time understanding why they killed the Wiki-ability and turned it into basically yet another "page creator" akin to something you'd find on any domain hosting account.

I was really truly hoping for a Google Wiki in my google account to start playing with. Instead, I end up with a 1990's era web page creator. Totally lame.

Dan

February 29, 2008 05:02 PM

I've been a CIO and consultant to companies in IT Mgmt, and was starting to work with JotSpot tools before it was purchased. I believe this first intro product is the end-user version, and development tools & APIs are yet to come.

The JotSpot offering was much more than a wiki, so I understand why they are staying away from that term, it is much too limiting compared to what they are actually offering today.

I also believe it is a Sharepoint killer, much more approachable and without the complexity. Forget about the features, sharepoint has more than most companies would ever use (much like their office counterparts). If Google Sites has enough features with ease of use, that's the right mix for any organization.

The killer part is when companies begin to get a clue that the cost of running the server(s) for sharepoint, exchange, and storage for power alone is much greater than Google Apps annual price. When you add in the cost of hw & sw maintenance, staffing, cooling, and updates, it's a no brainer.

I for one welcome the move.

Tim Harvey

February 29, 2008 08:10 PM

It is true this version of Sites does not have nearly the capabilities Notes or Sharepoint may offer but I think organizations will quickly realize it has enough functions to offer an alternative especially when complemented by offerings from vendors like us that offer simple, fast and low cost realtime integration and mashup capabilities. www.xaware.org

Gus Griffin

March 3, 2008 08:30 PM

I, for one, am very excited about where Google is going with Sites and the way various of their offerings are coming together. Besides the existing Google Apps we have 1) the ability to plug our own applications into Google sites - see http://code.google.com/apis/apps/ , 2) there's an interesting list of add-on goodies beginning to build at their Enterprise Solutions Gallery - see http://www.google.com/enterprise/gallery/ , 3) the work being put in on OpenSocial will certainly be applied to Sites as it becomes available, 4) Google Gears is going to make it easy to sync all this online stuff with your desktop for whenever you're stuck in a plane or a Tibetan monestary (though they are probably wired by now as well), and 5) Android (their budding mobile platform) is going to mech all this with your pda as well. Yay for Google! One of the few remaining questions is will I still need to go elsewhere for decent quality desktop videoconferencing (with phone Out and In, call recording, etc) or are they going to conquer that field too?

Steve

December 25, 2008 04:45 PM

Try www.manymoon.com is a easy to use collaboration tool without the set up and is feature rich . It also works with google docs and calendar.

Allows you to manage private, shared tasks and projects with milestone and document support.

Its Free !!!

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