Google announced this week that it has opened up its free web-design program to everyone. Google Sites serves up simple tools to create and post personal websites, but with an emphasis on crafting collaborative pages with friends and classmates. This social spin makes Google Sites the GeoCities of Web 2.0.
The only barrier to entry is a Google user name – the easiest way to get one is to sign up for a free Gmail account. After setting up a page, you can let others help build out the site. You can control who gets to edit your creation and, if you, want, limit who gets to view it.
It’s easy to make sites look spiffy without learning any HTML. But just as with GeoCities a decade ago, the more I got into it, the more frustrated I got with the cookie-cutter options. For example, two of the coolest features, calendars and slide shows, are attractive and really easy to set up; but they only work if you import information from other Google services. So, if you already use Google Calendar and Google’s Picasa photo site, you’re all set. If you prefer other sites, too bad. (Clearly, part of the business plan is to get people further entrenched in the Google family.)
Nonetheless, it’s a great my-first-website maker, especially considering the price. Clean, easy, and fast – just site the search engine.