JotSpot used to be my favorite Wiki tool and I was so sad to see it vanish after being acquired by Google. Today, at long last, JotSpot is back in the form of Google Sites. Weirdly, the only way you can sign up to use it (for now), is if you have a Google Apps account – which I think is something primarily used by small businesses. Not sure why Google would assume that individuals would not be just as interested in this tool – for the same reason that BaseCamp is used both by teams and individuals. Well, no matter, I happen to have a Google Apps account and started playing around with the app – and I have to say, I wasn’t very impressed. Sure, it’s still in ‘Beta’ – but Google has sort of shot themselves in the foot with their liberal use of that term (with Gmail still in Beta, Google has basically rendered the term meaningless) – so because it’s meaningless, people ignore that supposed message that things may not be quite working as expected, and expect everything to work just right. The whole experience still feels a bit clunky, at least by Google standards – for example, I created a new page, assuming it would then show up in my list of pages in the sidebar – but for some mysterious reason, I have to go into the settings for that page and choose to have it display in my page list – makes no sense. Considering that this app is integrated with the apps suite, it’s also not clear to me what the relationship is between the various dashboards you can create as part of this app and the dashboard that is part of the Google Apps suite – to be clear, this is not the same as the iGoogle dashboard. In fact, it seems like Google in general is having a bit of an IA problem – lots of apps all sort of interconnected but no overall semblance of order.
Anyway, bottom line is that Google Sites will probably be a worthwhile Wiki, Team Tool, whatever, eventually, but for now, it’s still a bit rough around the edges.
So, not unexpectedly, the aging 800-pound gorilla Microsoft recently put in a bid to acquire a big box of Viagra aka Yahoo for 44 some billion dollars, hoping to stave off it’s losing battle against the young-buck 800 lb (8000 lb?) gorilla Google. Call me a pessimist, but even if this deal goes through, I don’t think it’s going to achieve what Microsoft appears to hope it will achieve. Neither Microsoft nor Yahoo have been leaders in innovation on the web. They’ve both been one step behind Google, mimicking whatever Google does, and rarely leading the way. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the web, for better or worse, would not be what it is today were it not for Google. The only way, then, that any kind of collaboration between Microsoft and Yahoo could be successful–be it the current potential acquisition or something else–it would need to fundamentally reshape the web. The point that I am meanderingly getting to here is that two 800-pound gorillas are not necessarily better than one. Sure, in the short term, they could launch some gigantor campaign with lots of cool free stuff and whiz-bang services or whatever, but ultimately, unless they are truly innovating, they’ll wither away. In fact, one of the main problems Microsoft already is struggling with is that it’s becoming so much of a dinosaur (man, I just seem to love those animal metaphors), that it’s too slow and too unwieldy to get anything done in any reasonable amount of time (one word: Vista) Adding to Microsoft’s bulk with another not-so-small company would not alleviate this (though Ballmer appears to think that acquiring Yahoo would allow eliminating redundancies between the organizations.) So, unless some magical synergy thing happens between the companies should the deal go through, I think it’s just going to be more of the same. That’s not so say that Google will continue to be the leader. In fact, while Microhoo are busy exchanging billions, there are probably a couple young geniuses sitting in some garage (why is it that all computer innovations have to happen in a garage?) developing an idea that will reshape the web as we know it and make this whole acquisition thing irrelevant.