Google Sites is a service that allows consumers to easily create web pages by using an editor that is about as easy to use as a word processor. You do not need to know any HTML code at all in order to create great-looking web pages. (A little knowledge of HTML won't hurt, however.)
Each free web site also includes 10 gigabytes of storage which should be more than enough for 99% of all personal web sites. You could create tens of thousands of pages on your web site, if you wish. Google doesn't specify any maximum for the number of pages but all the pages must fit within the 10 gigabyte storage maximum. You can also upload files up to 10 megabytes in size.
Google Sites is integrated with other Google products, so you can insert videos, docs, spreadsheets, presentations, photo slide shows, and calendars directly onto your Google Sites pages, all without using any HTML code.
Collaboration with others is also simple. The "Work together" and "share our" permission settings let you designate owners, viewers and collaborators (meaning they can edit pages) for your site. You can optionally give other people permission to edit just part or even all of your site, as you wish. You can make your Google Sites visible to just a few people, to your entire organization, or to the world. Want to have a few pages that are restricted to access only by club members? Add a password to those pages and then the only people who can access those individual pages are those to whom you give the password.
One of the easy features to implement on Google Sites is a search box. Anyone can enter a search term into the box and quickly find any specific words of phrases on your web site. Of course, the search is powered by Google and uses the same syntax and technology as regular Google searches. Information added to a Google Sites web page usually gets indexed by Google within a very few hours.
You can find many other providers of free web sites but most insert their own advertising into your web pages. In contrast, Google's free web pages have no advertising. That may make a difference in your planning for your own web site or that of a church group or a genealogy society. (You can insert your own ads, if you wish.)
Google has now introduced even more features to Google Sites. Starting this week, web site creators can now upload pictures to Picasa, then easily use those images on Google Sites with having to copy any files or writing any HTML code. Google Sites has also added direct data import from Google Docs: write your text in a word processor and then use it to build your web site. The site can now also display RSS feeds.
If you don't have an artistic eye, you can use pre-defined templates to build an attractive web site within minutes. You can also modify existing templates or create your own, then save the new template and use it for all your web pages.
The standard URL for a Google site is http://sites.google.com/a/example.com/yoursite. This can be changed through the Google Apps control panel to your own personalized URL, such as: http://www.example.com. Nobody will know that your personal web site is hosted on Google Sites.
Not bad for a free service!
The web is yours. Add whatever information to the World Wide Web and Google will index it and make the information available to everyone in the world with an Internet connection. (There are some strict rules about pornography and spam, however.)
Google Sites strikes me as a great alternative to some of the better-known free hosting services. You can build web sites as big as you want, within reason, and publish whatever information you wish. Best of all, there are no ads other than any ads that you might insert. For those who own their own domain names, you can have the pages display at your web address, such as at: http://www.my-domain-name.com. This is free grassroots publishing at its best.
If you would like to build a personal web site for genealogy or for any other personal project or for a genealogy society or a historical society or for your son's Boy Scouts troop or for your bowling league or for a school project or for work or just about any other purpose, go to http://sites.google.com.