UPDATED: September 7, 2006 — Updates are in BOLD lettering. Google Apps for Your Domain is Google’s first step into offering a full-service suite of free, private-domain-specific, web applications:

Now you can offer private-labeled email, IM and calendar tools to all of your users for free*, so they can share ideas and get things done more effectively. You can design and publish your organization’s website, too. It’s all hosted by Google, so there’s no hardware or software for you to install or maintain. (*Organizations accepted by Google during the Google Apps for Your Domain beta period are eligible for free service for their approved beta users even beyond the end of the beta period, as described in the Terms of Service.) 

I signed up my Boles University domain on the first day Google Apps for Your Domain was announced. I found it strange Google didn’t include Writely or Spreadsheets with this beta.

Perhaps Google are saving those two applications to really give companies like 37 Signals a real hard run for our money as a go-to for-pay service? I was thrilled yesterday when my application to beta test Google Apps for Boles University was approved:

Google Apps for Boles University

The first thing you do is set up a main administration account. You can then assign user roles and provide email accounts for up to 25 other people.

I can see how Google Apps are already shaping up into a Basecamp killer where I can pull in my Urban Semiotic Guest Authors and give them email, chat, calendar and other goodies — one day Writely and Spreadsheets, I hope — so we can begin to collaborate online. Instead of emailing each other stories and ideas we will be able to do it all online via Google Apps!

Google Apps for Boles University

Now it’s time to add, and then set up, the services you wish to use. I decided to go to my web hosting company and change my MX (Mail Exchange) records to Google so I can get and send email from my Boles University hosted Google email account. That process of changing and updating MX records can be complicated for a novice user so don’t worry about using G-Mail for you hosted domain if you’re already satisfied with your current email setup. I am disappointed Google Talk isn’t natively available for the Mac! That means I can’t chat with my people online unless I use a program like Adium.

Google Apps for Boles University

You can also get rid of the Google logos and brand your hosting with a logo of you own!

Google Apps for Boles University

Here is my Boles University-branded G-Mail inbox and it is flush with the standard 2 gigs of space and every person on my team gets the same amount of space! I can also “Manage this domain” from this interface. Slick!

Google Apps for Boles University

I wish I had an easy way to pull in all my current G-mail email and settings into this new account AS WELL AS keeping all the increased G-mail storage space quotas I earned over the years. My standard G-mail account has 700 MB more than my new account. That hurts. Google will also host your website domain.

You have to change or add a CNAME record in the Zone file for your domain to make that happen. If you don’t understand what that means you can just not worry about it for now and have a really ugly domain URL that might look like this: http://www.bolesuniversity.com-a.googlepages.com That might lead you to a page like this:

Google Apps for Boles University

You use Google Page Creator to build your website pages. I made the unfortunate mistake of not listening to Google when I set up my test for web hosting. I wanted to host a subdomain on Google, say — google.bolesuniversity.com — but instead of putting “google” into the setup window I kept the Google default of “www” and that means I put all my website eggs in the Google basket. I didn’t want to do that.

But I did.

Now I’m stuck with that ugly URL because it cannot be changed and I only want part of my website on Google, not all of it. Google warns you they will not change it on their end. I acted to soon to get everything set up for this review. Boles University proper is still hosted on my servers and not Google.

UPDATE: Google reset my domain hosting! I was able to create a proper subdomain and I set up a CNAME record in my Zone file and now you can see how this all looks by going here: david.bolesuniversity.com That cool BolesUniversity.com subdomain is hosted on the Google servers! THANK YOU GOOGLE!

Let’s move on to something I didn’t goof up during the move: Calendars! Each person on your domain can have a calendar and you can share schedules by default if you wish so everyone can see what the other people on your team are doing. I do so ever love the logo branding:

Google Apps for Boles University

Here’s the Google Calendar sidebar in action! Did I mention I love the logo branding?

Google Apps for Boles University

When you want to make changes to your domain by adding or deleting services you do it via this control panel.

As you can see below I turned off my “Domain Hosting” for a couple of hours and then turned it “back on” hoping it would forget the “www” mistake I made. But it didn’t. Google remembered my mistake. I’m living with it. Against my will.

Google Apps for Boles University

Here’s where I login to the Google control panel to manage my Boles University domain:

Google Apps for Boles University

Once inside, I can see who logged on when and which people are not reading their email fast enough to take advantage of enrollment in Boles University.

It’s been over 15 hours since the invites were sent, people! That’s half a day in real time and two years in internet time!

Google Apps for Boles University

One users are setup for my domain, this is the login screen they use for access.

You can customize both the background color and border of the login box to match your design style. Did I mention I love the logo branding?

Google Apps for Boles University

Google Apps for Your Domain is a big, wet, smack-on-the-lips for those of us who live our lives on the web and who prefer not to store our being on wonky local computers.

Living and working on the web just got easier with the advent of Google Apps for Your Domain and being able to brand your domain makes the online love just a little sweeter. You can apply for the Google Apps beta here if you want to set up a little loving for Your Domain.

54 Comments

  1. Hi Nicola!
    Thanks for playing along last night when none of this was really very clear yet.
    You can curry together all these apps on your own but having them under the control of one domain where you can all “come together” as a team or a school or a company OR A BLOG — makes for one really interesting take on collaborative working.
    Some claim Google Apps for Your Domain is a direct hit at Microsoft, and it may well be, but for style and content and emotion, it looks, feels and behaves more like a direct-kill strike aimed at the heart of 37 Signals.
    Did I mention I love the branding…
    :mrgreen:

  2. Hi David,
    Looks great. This will be useful for clubs and other groups that need to keep in touch with a minimum of fuss.
    I’m going to put in my application for a website I’m developing for my son’s Cub Scout Pack. I was thinking about using PostNuke or Joomla and was testing both platforms (you can see an example of Joomla in action at ChristopherHedges.com), but it looks like Google apps might be the easiest way to keep everyone up-to-date because of the email and calendar features!
    I love the logo feature!
    I’ll need to log into my email account one of these days. 😉
    I have two work email accounts I check — one internal and one external — so by the time I get done with those, I’m too worn out to check my personal accounts.

  3. Hi Chris!
    I agree Google Apps for Your Domain are an easy way to get quick functionality on a website domain without a lot of hassle.
    Joomla looks greate on your site.
    I agree Google Apps are more collaborative and then you’d just give each Scout an account and BINGO — you have a ready-made online community.
    I love the logo feature, too!
    I’m not commenting on your email sickness -– except to say I can’t wait for your Cub Scouts to use that excuse on you!
    :mrgreen:

  4. Hi Nicola!
    I just sent Google some feedback and a link to my review. I want to see what extras they will offer for “paid” hosting and I want to see if they will find a way to fix my CNAME fiasco even though they claim they won’t. We are in a beta, after all!.
    😀
    I will post a note here if they respond.
    There are lots of ways to create an online community, but many of them require end user database knowledge or in-depth setup.
    Google is familiar and the interface is quite simple to learn even if you’re a n00b.
    I agree getting people online together in a simple manner is what everyone wants but few places even make an attempt to make happen.

  5. A S!
    Boles University could be a lot of fun and might even make some hard work and learning if set up properly one day.
    Google Apps are one way of adding instant depth and functionality to a website that didn’t even have email set up for it yet. Now we have email! And calendars! And Chat. And and and… Huzzah!
    Yeah… I gotta get busy on those sweatshirts… and come up with a motto… for the logo… “Buy a sweatshirt from a university that loves you, but will never graduate you!”
    😀

  6. “There are lots of ways to create an online community, but many of them require end user database knowledge or in-depth setup.
    Google is familiar and the interface is quite simple to learn even if you’re a n00b. ”
    There is hope for me yet then ! This is why it is exciting !

  7. Hi David,
    I bet the email sickness excuse will come into play because the email addresses will probably go to the scout’s parents since they are involved in all of the activities. I think it’s better anyway to have the parents in charge of the email accounts for all sorts of safety issues.

  8. Nicola!
    Yep! That’s the genius of Google. They lead you in quietly, show you the interface, and then hook you for life because it’s all so easy to understand and use!
    I honestly can’t wait to start paying for service from them. You know if you pay you’re going to get stuff 100 times better than the free things…. !

  9. UPDATE:
    Here’s the reply from Google concerning my CNAME web hosting issue:

    Hello David,
    Thanks for your reply.
    Once you’ve designated an address for your web pages, you won’t be able to change it. We’re working hard to improve our service, including this feature.
    In the meantime, you can choose a different address for your web pages by disabling and re-enabling web publishing in your account. Here’s how:
    1. Log in to your control panel.
    2. Click “Add and remove services.”
    3. Click “Disable Domain web pages,” and then “Yes, Disable domain web pages.”
    4. After 24 hours, set up web publishing for your domain.
    Sincerely,
    Cassandra
    The Google Team

    Yay!
    I turned off “Domain web pages” and we’ll see what happens in 24 hours!

  10. P.S. TO ALL —
    If you have a BolesUniversity.com account — please use it as you wish! I won’t have your calendar share with everyone else’s by default.
    Your information is completely private. I create your account but I do not have access to any of your Google App functions unless you decide to share. I can’t even add you as a Google Talk contact unless an invitation is sent and accepted.
    You will not lose your account unless you tell me you don’t want it any longer. Just use it in the spirit of goodwill you have demonstrated here.
    I hope to create tighter online collaboration for article writing and feedback as we progress but I will need you to use your bolesuniversity.com account — and not another account — for that kind of deep interaction.
    If you want to set up your Google Talk for chatting with me or with others on our team, go right ahead! You know my bolesuniversity.com account and how to contact me if you have questions or concerns.
    Enjoy!

  11. Hi David,
    I’m signed up and have set all of my CNAME & MX settings. Everything is set up okay because I got a confirmation from Google of same.
    Now, I have to wait for propagation before I can see what my page looks like with the subdomain.
    I’m glad I read your comments about the subdomain because I would have been tempted to go with the default WWW. I thought about it for a couple of seconds and went with “BEAR” for the subdomain!
    I’ll reveal the full address once I get everything set up and looking nice so people can see what the outside looks like.

  12. I don’t like the way the Google web pages look and the editor is too slow for me.
    I’m going to delete the Postnuke CMS platform I’m using and install Joomla because it looks nicer in my opinion, then add the email and calendar links to the menu options.

  13. Hi A S!
    I am so glad you’re with us!
    I love your new BolesUniversity email address! You won’t be moderated on that email address any longer since I cleared it for you here.
    Umm… yes… Chancellor Boles works really well for me!
    :mrgreen::!:

  14. Hi David,
    I think I have all of the toys running and linked to from the main site. 🙂
    I’ll have to see if Yahoo Mail Beta will be able to add a new email account so I can grab everything at one location. Did you ever get that problem with your account straightened out?

  15. That’s a sweet website, Chris! It looks super-great, too!
    I was never able to solve anything with Yahoo! They just totally blew me off. I canceled everything I paid to have with them and found other, happier, solutions. Have I mentioned how much I hate them?

  16. Yahoo is pretty expensive compared to other services.
    I still subscribe to the premium mail, but moved my domain I had with them elsewhere. I’m thinking I could drop the premium mail, forward all of my email accounts to my main account and save some money.
    You should check of Joomla and do a review. The price is right.

  17. Yeah is right, Nicola! It’s very cool. I’m using a bundled Google template for my subdomain site right now but I plan to create a whole new page and upload it to match the temperature of the rest of my pages.
    Where were you trying to login? Here? Google? Someplace else?

  18. Oh, good! I’m glad you’re back in, Nicola!
    You should only get locked out like that when Google is making deep changes to the Domain and I was doing that today.
    If I’m online editing pages — as I am now — or adding accounts or reading email it shouldn’t affect you, but if it does, let me know!

  19. UPDATE:
    Google added “widgets” you can drag-and-drop into your pages design! You can enable this by going to the “Settings” section of your Page Creator dashboard and agreeing to enable the “dangerous” feature that is untested.
    You can now play the Bejeweled Game, see moon phases and check your IP right here on my site:
    http://david.bolesuniversity.com/
    There are hundreds of gadgets you can now add to your Google Pages!