Google Sites

Google Sites (developed from JotSpot, which Google bought) is almost the ideal hosted wiki solution, as long as you associate it with a domain.

Without a domain, you can create a 100MB site on Google Sites. But with a domain and Google Apps "Standard Edition," you can create up to 10GB worth of sites (see comparison information about editions). (Bless their Googley hearts—I complained about how bad their information was about the different editions, and within a day, they revised their help pages to fix the problem.)

It does have some serious drawbacks though:
  • You can't designate regular pages as unpublished. If you want to create draft pages that do not show up on your site, you must use the workaround of creating draft announcements.
  • You can't edit your site's CSS. You have to use the Google Sites interface to change fonts, colors, and graphics, and your control is limited.
  • You can't use certain HTML tags, so (for instance), you can't insert Amazon Associates links with pictures, you can only insert plain-text links.
  • There's no obvious way to back up your site. The best suggestion I've seen is to use wget (a command-line tool) to periodically download your whole site.
  • There's no system for tagging or categorizing content. (This drawback is offset by the fact that sites, including—I think—attached content, are fully searchable.)
  • The WYSIWYG editor uses deprecated, non-semantic tags (<i> instead of <em>, for instance).
And here are some not-fully-documented features I've noticed:
  • The URL for each page is generated from the page title when you first create it.
    • You can change the title at any time, but the URL does not automatically change.
    • To manually change a page's URL, when logged in and viewing a page, go to "More Actions → Page Settings" on the menu bar and enter a new name for the page in the "Page URL" box. Your internal links will all be updated. The Google Sites blog explained this feature in June 2008.
      • Is this updating accomplished by rewriting your pages, or by creating an Alias or Redirect directive at the web-server level? I'm not sure.
  • Backup of partially completed page edits is dodgy, as is page locking.
    • Sites backs up your page edits as you work, sort of like Google Docs. So if you forget to save them actively, Sites might recover them for you.
    • If you are editing a page and hit "back," you may or may not get a warning—your might take you back, and cause you to lose your edits. You may or may not be prompted to recover them if you reload the page or try to save new edits.
    • Sites lets you open a page simultaneously. If you do so and forget that you have two pages open, you might create conflicts between the edits you make to each page. Sites really should warn you when you try to edit a page that is already being edited.
  • To "verify" your site for use with Google Webmaster Tools, as described in this Google Sites help page:
    • At your Google Site, go to Site Settings → Other and insert the Google Webmaster Tools <meta> tag in the appropriately named box.
Resources and links
Google Apps information
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