Google Inc. on Thursday launched an online application that allows multiple users to create and edit websites.

The company said the service, called Google Sites and part of the company's Google Apps package of online software, will help people without technical savvy create simple, easy-to-use websites they can share with co-workers, classmates or friends.

Users will be able to centralize information from other Google products, such as videos from YouTube, pictures from Picasa, or documents from Google Docs. The application also requires no knowledge of HTML or web design skills, the company said.

"We are literally adding an edit button to the Web," said Dave Girouard, general manager of the division overseeing the new application.

Google Sites is based on technology developed by JotSpot, a company Google acquired in October 2006.

JotSpot allowed users to build "wikis" β€” collaborative websites that multiple users can edit, add to or otherwise change. The scaled-down version of the JotSpot technology on Google sites is in keeping with the company's plan to bring wiki-like technology to a more mainstream audience.

As JotSpot chief executive Joe Kraus said at the time of the acquisition, "Our vision has always been to take wikis out of the land of the nerds and bring it to the largest possible audience."

The service comes in three different versions β€”all free β€” for individuals, groups and educators, and includes 10 GB of storage. A fourth version, called Google Sites Premier, costs $50 US per user per year.

As with other Google Apps services, Google's servers will host the application.
The new product was unveiled just days before Google's rival Microsoft hosts a conference in Seattle for its Sharepoint application, which also offers collaborative document and website management over the internet.

Google and Microsoft have been competing in a number of arenas, including web-based applications. Last year Google unveiled a premier edition Google Apps as an alternative to Microsoft's market-leading Office suite.

Microsoft has also made moves to enter the world of online search, most notably its attempt to purchase Yahoo Inc. for than $40 billion US.

With files from the Associated Press