The JotSpot-hosted wiki service is to be reborn as Google Sites, a new piece of the Google Apps-hosted collaboration and communication suites.

JotSpot's re-launch under a different name and a revamped architecture finally answers how this hosted wiki service was retooled, almost 18 months after Google acquired the company.

Google Sites aims to be a simpler, more scalable and less expensive alternative to products like Microsoft's SharePoint and IBM's Lotus Notes, said Matthew Glotzbach, product management director of Google's Enterprise unit.

With it, teams within an organisation can build websites to collaborate on projects, without needing to have HTML or web design experience. "Information in organisations is siloed. Teams have difficulty pulling together all the information they need to collaborate," said Rishi Chandra, Google Apps product manager. "With Google Sites, teams can bring this all together in one central place."

Teams can embed a variety of files and content from other Google applications and services, including video clips from YouTube, images from Picasa and Apps spreadsheets, text documents, presentations and calendars. This can result in a wide variety of websites, including intranets and blogs.

Google acquired JotSpot in October 2006, closed off new account registrations for it and kept mostly mum about its plans. Although Google continued supporting existing JotSpot customers, users sometimes complained about hosting outages and performance problems and about lack of responsiveness for technical support queries.

Google said existing JotSpot users will be notified via email on Thursday about Google Sites. Most JotSpot wikis will be migrated to Google Sites, while a few with many customised features built using JotSpot's APIs will have to be moved later, Glotzbach said. Some JotSpot applications will be ported over to Google Sites, while others will be phased out.

Google Sites will lack the APIs that let external developers create applications for JotSpot and customise it. However, Glotzbach said the Apps team will explore giving Google Sites an API. Google Sites isn't completely closed in this regard anyway. It can run Google Gadgets, which are simple HTML and Javascript mini-applications that can be added to web pages.

Google Apps has been activated on more than 500,000 organisations, most of them small and medium-sized businesses. Google Sites is available to users of Apps' Standard, Education, Premier and Team editions.