Google Sites: evaluate first and don't believe the hype

I'm appalled at the way Google gets an apparent free pass at producing a service that is fundamentally substandard. Dan Farber says:The launch of Google Sites is like the opening of a movie or play.
Written by Dennis Howlett, Contributor

I'm appalled at the way Google gets an apparent free pass at producing a service that is fundamentally substandard. Dan Farber says:

The launch of Google Sites is like the opening of a movie or play. The critics (including myself) feast on it, churning out copy and opinions as to whether Google Sites is a Microsoft SharePoint killer or merely the McDonald's of wikis, with more nutritional value than the venerable fast food burger and no cost.

Great words that have attracted plenty of attention on Techmeme but which miss the point in my opinion. Google has released what it thinks is a Microsoft killer but adopted the all too familiar Web 2.0 almost-beta quality test that no enterprise, big or small will accept for production use.

Call me a curmudgeon (I'm normally a huge Google fan) but if a big name player like Google expects people to tolerate a less then great user experience in today's world then it is sadly mistaken if not cynical. How many startups would Mike Arrington royally flay for producing something that's as bad as Sites? Most, I'm sure. So why the general free pass? I don't get it unless the opinion makers didn't bother to look at what Google produced, preferring instead to parse the press release material.

During the first morning (CET) following its release, I witnessed a river of Twitter apologists for Google proclaiming that Sites is 'nice' 'good' etc etc. Maybe in concept but since when does a big name software vendor get to deliver 'nice' but poorly executed? If this was SAP, Oracle, IBM or Microsoft we'd be all over them, vying for words to describe how poor they are. As the day wore on, colleagues took a closer look and re-evaluated their position. Kevin Hodgson said:

Google Sites seems much more complicated than it should be. For god's sake, it's a wiki, right? I can't even sign up with my Gmail!

I know that feeling. Subsequently, Sites became a topic of closer scrutiny among my Irregular colleagues. Dan Mc Weeney said:

Google Gadgets are totally useless for any real enterprise use, at least they were 6 months ago when I evaluated them for SAP.  The Gadget code runs on Google's servers and then renders the full HTML UI to the user.  What this means is that if you want to show financial data to an end user, you will have to allow Google's servers a pass through your firewall to make the web service call.

That's a basic security issue. Nothing much has changed as far as I can tell. Google believes it can invade any enterprise either small or large based on cab fare pricing for near Microsoft functionality. That's a great disruptive idea in theory but it won't pass muster when IT comes around to check against established standards.

My wider concern is not whether Google has messed up. It's about the lack of attention to quality fomented by the 'release early, release often' mentality by the Web 2.0 adherents. It may be forgivable where the software is less than business critical but it isn't when that same software is positioned as a market disruptor. As Jeff Nolan succinctly observed:

It really just highlights the lack of critical voice in the blogosphere when it comes to Google and a handful of other halo companies. Maybe Google should have called it Origami instead of Sites, which would give the gang of bloggers who show up on Techmeme justification for saying Sites can be whatever Google wants it to be.

The message should be clear. While enterprisey type love invention and innovation, please don't treat both users and IT like idiotic sycophants, willing to suck up whatever is released. It won't wash with informed observers. Unfortunately, the Google  hyperbole seems to be working well enough. According to Forbes quoting Google spokespeople:

"We've passed 500,000 organizations using Google Apps, and we're adding 2,000 to 3,000 more a day," says Glotzbach. "The vast majority have been small- and medium-sized companies, plus educational institutions, but the pace and interest from big companies is picking up."

I hope they don't get burnt. I fear they will.

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