In a move that could make it easy for teachers, students, and others to create simple web sites for sharing information, without any specialized knowledge required, Google Inc.–already the world’s most popular spot for finding web sites–is aiming to become the go-to place for creating web sites, too.
The Mountain View, Calif.-based company is taking its first step toward that goal Feb. 28 with the debut of a free service designed for high-tech neophytes looking for a simple way to share information with other people working in the same organization or attending the same class in school.
With only a few clicks, just about anyone will be able to quickly set up and update a web site featuring a wide array of material, including pictures, calendars, and video from Google’s YouTube subsidiary, said Dave Girouard, general manager of the division overseeing the new application.
“We are literally adding an edit button to the web,” Girouard said.
All sites created on the service will run on one of Google’s computers.
Google acquired many of the new service’s web-site creation tools when it bought a Silicon Valley startup, JotSpot, last year.
The tools are the latest addition to a bundle of applications that Google offers to schools, businesses, and consumers as alternatives to similar products sold by Microsoft Corp., one of Google’s fiercest rivals.
Google’s latest service represents a challenge to Microsoft’s SharePoint, which charges licensing fees. Google is unveiling its alternative just a few days before Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft hosts a SharePoint conference in Seattle.
While Microsoft’s programs typically are installed on individual computers, Google keeps its application on its own machines, so users can access them from anywhere with an internet connection.
By gradually introducing free versions of word processing, spreadsheet, and calendaring programs over the past two years, Google has been threatening to siphon revenue away from Microsoft, which makes most of its money from software sales.
Microsoft, in turn, hopes to take a bite of out Google’s bread-and-butter in online search and advertising by buying Yahoo Inc. for more than $40 billion.
Google says more than 500,000 schools, companies, and government agencies use at least some of its applications. The company won’t say how many of those organizations subscribe to a premium version of its software suite, but the fees haven’t made much of a dent at Google so far.
Last year, Google’s software licensing and other products generated $181 million in revenue, while $16.4 billion poured in from advertising.