Yahoo! some time ago launched a free website offering for small businesses (to get their content and as a "foot in the door" for web hositing upsells). When I speak to Yahoo! about it, they won’t reveal numbers but say the product has been well received.
Today Google launched something similar but somewhat broader: "Google Page Creator." Here’s the official Google press dispatch:
The new product is Google Page Creator, a free, easy, browser-based tool for creating attractive web pages.
Web publishing can be complicated, expensive, and unsatisfying. Google Page Creator has been designed with ease of use in mind. Its unique interface enables users to edit and create pages just as they appear online, without knowledge of HTML or other computer programming languages. Combined with a simple one-step publishing process, users can create attractive, functional web pages in minutes – hosted by Google for free.
Google Page Creator is a web-based tool, meaning no download is necessary. Users need only visit http//pages.google.com and sign in using their Gmail account to begin creating and publishing their own web pages.
They’re not accepting new sign-ups given the apparent demand today. Here’s the quickie site I created in about 5 minutes. It’s about as easy to use as blogging tools.
In order to get access to the product, you have to have an account (essentially sign up for gmail). Your gmail address becomes the first part of your URL, in my case: http://greg.sterling.googlepages.com/home.
This will certainly drive more gmail adoption (with people signing up for multiple accounts). There’s also a "viral" option built into the system, "tell a friend," allowing you to email the url to third parties.
Our data reflect that about 42 percent of small business advertisers have websites. (Google would say this isn’t just about SMEs in the way that Base isn’t just about Classifieds.) And while everyone needs a web presence (no debate now), how extensive that presence needs to be is a real question. Do SMEs need full blow sites or do they simply need effective "landing pages?" Though Page Creator does seem to allow for the creation of multiple page sites that go beyond the "landing page" concept.
This product will do several things for Google potentially:
1. Drive more Gmail adoption and Google registrations
2. Create a more direct channel into the SME market (the tool is simple and the idea that I can have a site that gets indexed quickly in Google is appealing)
3. Create the ability to present a range of advertising options (including PPClick and PPCall) to SMEs through their admin "dashboards."
How will it impact traditional web hosting firms? It’s too early to tell; but Yahoo!’s free product, and those that preceded it, haven’t replaced "professional" websites. Yet the web hosting business is increasingly becoming a template-driven "commodity" business.
I think, however, over the longer term these free website products for both Google and Yahoo! have significant potential both as a channel to acquire content and as a platform to potentially upsell SME-advertisers into paid search and other ad products.
Is Google Page Creator perfect? Probably not; but upon very preliminary investigation it appears quite easy to use and "intuitive" and you get something that approximates your own URL.
Here’s more from Chris Sherman at Search Engine Watch, including some skeptical speculation that this may be Google’s effort to create a "MySpace" knockoff.