Protopage is usually promoted and thought of as a homepage service. That puts it in with providers like Netvibes, Webwag, Pageflakes, Yourminis, Google personalized pages, and Windows Live.
Part of my interest in Protopage was that it was one of the first sites that I saw that was using an Ajax desktop that lets you move items around on the page with a simple drag and drop. Others have that now too - Netvibes, Google, Microsoft Live and Zoozio. Goowy is similar but using Flash. Microsoft Live is the only one that is extensible allowing a number of widgets and tools to be added.
But that's not my point in posting all this.
These online applications are great ways to get students online fast. They require no web design knowledge, no HTML, FTP, software, no fees, your own customizable URL, free hosting and support. What a deal! For schools that can't or choose not to offer students server space, these are alternatives.
It's not MySpace or a blog, but students can be fully operational sites within certain parameters. Adding widgets can make them look more multimedia or they can become a mess of widgets. That extreme offers good lessons on usability.
This is more of the movement of applications online.
I assigned my design students to create a Google Pages site and review the user interface. Most of the students who have web experience found the app limiting and a bit frustrating (trouble changing the CSS and "breaking" the template etc.). Still, if you are a web newbie in need of a small, basic but attractive site (with free hosting and support from Google), this is a good choice.
Here are 3 of my students' Google Pages as samples - one on web design, another on the photography term bokeh and a simple site on technical writing. The assignment was just to use the app and review it, so these are not full blown sites (especially on the content side) and probably represent just an hour or two of design work. For that small investment, they are not bad at all.
Protopage is actually more limited in design (most of us couldn't handle the Ajax even if they gave us access to the code!) but offers more add-ons, so the results can look media rich.
Protopage offers more than 270 widgets (preview the widgets before adding them, an internal RSS feed reader for viewing news articles as well as cartoon feeds, video podcasts, and audio
If privacy is a concern, version 3 has the ability to create tabs and categories, make the tabs public or private, and password protect group of tabs.
Your text content goes in "sticky notes" that you can click and edit. of text inside the widget. There's even a search box with 750 preloaded search engines. Protopage supports most popular browsers - IE 7/6, Firefox 2/1.5, Opera 9, Safari 2, and even viewing in Nintendo Wii.
There were actually 30 new features in Version 3. I like that the sites are protected by a password, so you can set up instant collaboration by setting a password to let others see or edit your page. For info on new features, check their blog blog.protopage.com.
Here's a sample Protopage site I put up as a demo protopage.com/teachnologyGet started with Google Pages at googlepages.com and with Protopage at protopage.com
5/3/07 - A reader emailed me to say (use the comment feature!) that you should also check out http://jimdo.com as a tool for easy web page creation.