Google Sites Goes After Enterprise Collaboration

It was with little fanfare, just a simple blog post, that Google released a new API for its Google Sites offering. For those of you who do not know about Google Sites, it is a product that allows you to create websites easily without needing to know things like HTML or JavaScript. For those of you familiar with blogging sites like WordPress or Blogger, you will recognize that it is really a Content Management System (CMS) of some kind. It is a fairly functional product which allows you to create pages based on templates, and edit pages directly in a WYSIWYG editor. Like many of the blog platforms, it allows you to insert predefined objects (Gadgets in the Google case, widgets on other platforms) into your pages. For someone that wanted to create a site that is not strictly a blog and maybe have some help managing it, it is a good product to use.

However, Google was not satisfied with these basic features and decided to release the API. Let’s take a look at the benefits according to Google:

The use cases are plentiful for businesses:
  • Update Google Sites from 3rd party applications – e.g. your sales team’s Google Sites pages can update automatically when new leads are added to your CRM system.
  • Migrate files and content from workspace applications like Microsoft SharePoint and Lotus Notes to Google Sites.
  • Export Google Sites pages, edit them offline, and re-import the updated content.
  • Export your sites, including every page revision, for backup.
  • Easily monitor changes across your important internal and public sites, all from a single gadget.
  • Push new content like changes to employee policies or a new corporate logo to any site on your domain, even sites created by individual employees.

First, you will see that this is target immediately at businesses. Next, you will see the names of enterprise level CMS/Wiki/Intranet/Collaboration applications like Lotus Notes and SharePoint. When Google announces that you can import data from another system, that typically means they are going to war with that competing product. This was a warning to Microsoft and Lotus that Google had sat out of this fight long enough. They even link to a product built on the API that allows you to migrate content and data from SharePoint.

Lastly, they have some documentation on the API in the form of a protocol guide, a reference guide and a Java language guide. The Java language guide is another piece of the enterprise puzzle. Google has typically released new developer tools and APIs using Python or JavaScript. In this case, they went directly to Java which is heavily used in the enterprise application space, and they provide a Java client to get you developing faster.

Google has been trying to make progress in the enterprise space for years, but never found a good way to get in. By targeting SharePoint and other enterprise collaboration suites, they are targeting some “low-hanging fruit”. SharePoint is very easy to use when creating sites, but notoriously difficult to program against. By releasing a Java client, Google has given enterprise developers a quick way to prototype their next application using Google Sites. If you can prototype something fairly functional in two weeks, your manager and people higher in the organization will start listening. If you then mention that it is offered by Google, and there are minimal administration costs, they might get project approval. Other tool vendors had better be paying attention, because Google is ready to fight.

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