?RIP: Office 365 Public Sites!UPDATE:You heard it here first!!
“Today, we’re making a difficult decision to discontinue the SharePoint Online Public Website feature. This lets us then focus on future investments while broadening our partnership with industry leaders.”
Microsoft is throwing in the towel on the Office 365 public site option. According to a Msft source, it will be removed from the Office 365 Sharepoint Online offering as of an update scheduled for Dec 2014 / Jan 2015. Existing accounts using the public site will not be affected by this dramatic change, but can expect the already lacklustre support to dwindle further. It may be telling that the inclusion of a public site has already been removed from the feature list in the Office 365 “compare plans” pages.
The public site has long been the “runt” in Msft’s foray into cloud computing, a fact that was reflected in the option’s halfhearted functionality and support. The inability to anonymously access list items was a clear indicator from the start that balancing the needs of a functional public facing site with the need for private site security on the same server was a tricky problem to overcome. Hosting 3rd party apps on Azure was a compromise solution, but was awkward, unintuitive and unpopular with users.
Limited functionality is one thing, but Microsoft’s unwillingness to address the growing list of missing or broken public site features is an even clearer indication of their wavering commitment to the public site model. The recent rash of users complaining about problems with the public blog may have been pivotal in pushing Microsoft towards a decision to abandon the public site offering. Customers trying to create a business web site are hardly going to be reassured when support’s all too typical response to an issue is: “submit feedback”.
Learning from their early experience with the Office Live service – which ended up being almost exclusively used as a public site platform – Msft took a barebones approach to public sites in Office 365, and refocused the service on Sharepoint’s user and data management capabilities.
Savvy Sharepoint followers have long wondered about the role of a stripped down public site offering in Msft’s cloud business model. And in the face of declining use and mounting customer dissatisfaction, apparently Msft has now decided the considerable resources needed to maintain and support public sites can no longer be justified.
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