JotSpot users: mixed feelings about Google Sites

Users and developers are concerned by the lack of an API for Google Sites and the limited information about migration paths and backwards compatibility between the services

JotSpot users and developers are torn about Google's relaunch of the hosted wiki service under the name Google Sites as part of the Google Apps hosted suite.

On the one hand, they are relieved that JotSpot is alive and that its technology wasn't discarded or taken apart and plugged into existing products. This had been a concern in the JotSpot community during the 16 months of silence and uncertainty that followed Google's acquisition of JotSpot in October 2006. At that time, the wiki company, founded in 2004, had a vibrant community of commercial developers and thousands of business customers.

Still, users and developers are concerned by the lack of an API for Google Sites and the limited information Google has offered about migration paths and backwards compatibility between the services.

"From our perspective as JotSpot developers, there's some disappointment that the API isn't available to create more sophisticated applications with the product," said Michael Dressler, partner at The Last Mile Group, which builds custom online community applications for businesses. "In that respect, this represents a step back from where JotSpot was when it was acquired."

At one point, JotSpot-based wikis represented the majority of application development work at The Last Mile Group. However, that has dropped to less than 20 per cent due to the uncertainty that clouded JotSpot after the acquisition. The Last Mile Group has diversified into developing for other platforms, like the ones from Jive Software, CustomerVision and Social Platform. It even rebranded its JotXPert development service to the broader, non-vendor-specific CommunityXPerts name.

"I'd assume that at some point Google will release an API for Google Sites and make it available for third-party developers and that underneath it will still have the same level of [JotSpot] functionality," Dressler said. In the meantime, The Last Mile Group feels it will be very limited in what it can do as a commercial developer with Google Sites, which the company has just started to examine, he said.

The API is also in the mind of Deb Adair, a freelance technical writer. Adair created and maintains two JotSpot sites, including one for a horse riding academy for which she built some custom applications using the API. "The lack of an API is definitely a concern going forward for that site," said Adair, who wrote developer documentation for JotSpot prior to the Google acquisition.

Meanwhile, at InCircuit Development, a maker of enterprise asset management software, there is some concern about what Google's plan is for migrating JotSpot wikis to Google Sites.

InCircuit uses JotSpot for its intranet and for coordinating software customization projects with clients, said Nicholas Cancelliere, who Thursday began manually moving portions of the wikis to Google Sites, in part to test out the new service. He hopes Google will soon provide more information not only about migration but also that it will clarify what JotSpot features and applications will carry over to Google Sites and which ones will not.

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