Hey look – it’s 1996 all over again

Yet another Google product launch, and yet another collective yawn – or worse, a quizzical look and a shrug of the shoulders. What the heck is Google Page Creator supposed to be? You go there, type in some text, maybe drag an image, change the font, choose a template and away you go. Google publishes and hosts the page at yourname.googlepages.com and you get 100 megabytes of space. Does this sound at all familiar? It does to The Blog Herald, and to Jim Benson at J. LeRoy and others – including me. It sounds like GeoCities.

Remember them? They were one of those great website-creation tools that sprang up in the late 1990s and quickly tried to outdo each other in the low-price, garish design sweepstakes. It got to a point where I refused to even go to a webpage if it had a GeoCities.com address. Nevetheless, there were plenty of similar services – including TheGlobe, which saw the largest increase in market value ever on the day of an IPO. It later disappeared, but GeoCities was bought by none other than Yahoo for $3.6-billion.

Apart from the use of AJAX, which makes it that much faster to create a crappy website, Google’s page creator is like going back in time. Richard MacManus of ZDNet wonders whether it isn’t part of a much-rumoured Google Office suite of some kind, a sort of proto-word processor. Matthew Gifford feels the same. But Nik Cubrilovic says it looks like just another lame product rolled out the door with too little thought, like Google Base or Froogle.com, and I must say I’m leaning in that direction myself. Maybe it’s part of a larger strategy, but if so then the rest of the strategy better look pretty damn good, because this is lame.

10 thoughts on “Hey look – it’s 1996 all over again

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  2. I am speculating quite heavily, but I think Google’s following a Release Early Release Often philosophy. The problem is that it doesn’t quite mesh with their position as a major software company. We expect to see complete, reasonable products from major companies, but this (and the other examples you list) isn’t one, really.

    The page creator is nothing special but it’s a really early stage product. They’re letting people bang at it early in the life cycle to find out what people actually want, and then maybe it becomes something good. I don’t know.

    I think the products have to do with Google’s 20% time. The engineers are working on something that maybe might one day be useful, and they’re encouraged to do so, so they get some space at google.com to take it a little further. I think it’s a good thing that this giant corporation is willing to open the doors to a very early stage product.

    I don’t quite understand how it fits together with Blog*Spot though. They already have a free web page hosting service, why are they building something different?

  3. I think you’re probably right, Rob. I sort of assume that it’s one of those 20-per-cent things too. And I actually think those types of projects are good, and the approach is a good one for morale, etc. — but not every single one needs to be rolled out, does it?

    Thanks for the comment.


  4. Sure not every one needs to be rolled out, but what’s the harm in doing so?

    I mean, don’t get me wrong, I pretty much completely agree that this is an entirely yawn-worthy and mostly pointless application, but still, why not? It’s not like the internet’s going to run out of bits as a result.

  5. Rob,

    I think the “harm in doing so” is pretty clear – lots of bad PR and damage to your street cred. I think it’s great to see Google experimenting with new ideas, but they’re a major player now and that seems to increase our expectations.

  6. I kind of agree, Pete. If Google was just any old company, it would be kind of neat watching them try out different stuff. But I think when you get that big — and your stock gets that high — people would probably rather you operated like a normal business. But then again, maybe we should give Google credit for doing things differently and still trying to think like a small startup.


  7. Me, I think it may have it’s niche… For one thing, I wish the GeoCities of this world were so easy to use back then… 😎

    But I am thinking of the very small, no-tech-whatsoever-except-for-billing-maybe companies, you know, your neighborhood plumber and the likes. This is a great way to have a quick presence, and indexed by Google. Also, I wouldn’t rule out a tie-in with Google Base, so that you don’t need to leave the Googlesphere to list your stuff…

    Just a thought…

  8. Actually I think it maybe whats under the bonnet/hood all of these announcements/betas may look quite random (and distastefull to some) ,but they share a common architecture and heritage underneath. I think when we see these facilities begining to get mashed together the pattern will emerge, i.e. the power of the combination. These early front ends are because you need something to start with and beta with.


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  10. Agree, this is yet another example of the infamous 20% rule at Google.

    Nothing wrong with giving your creative types freedom to innovate, but the latest Google ideas seem to be only 20% baked and have 0% management oversight or strategic value. Time to grow up!

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