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Microsoft announces the end of the SharePoint Online Public Websites feature of Office 365

On December 22, 2014, a number of online commentators on Microsoft’s Office 365 product published content about Microsoft’s announced decision to remove the Public Websites feature of SharePoint Online. Readers interested in learning more about this announcement are encouraged to read a post to Microsoft’s Support blog, titled Information about upcoming changes to the SharePoint Online Public Website.

The decision to remove this feature appears to be entirely consistent, to this writer, when it is considered along with Microsoft’s highly publicized decision, back in October, 2012, to remove Design View (a WYSIWYG editor) from SharePoint Designer 2013. Back then, the decision stimulated a lot of controversy for Microsoft, along with a considerable amount of work for organizations with solutions built with this capability already deployed, who found themselves needing to implement workarounds, should they opt to migrate from SharePoint 2010 to SharePoint 2013.

Is there some good news here? Perhaps this decision can be seen as a friendly harbinger of a new effort, on Microsoft’s part, to open potentially valuable business opportunities for its partner channel. The announcement also includes mention of new, 3rd party offers, for organizations looking to leverage a commitment to SharePoint Online into a public facing web site: “Moving forward, Office 365 customers will have access to third-party offerings that will enable them to easily integrate their public presence with their Office 365 service. Additional details about these solutions will be made available in January 2015.”

This kind of development looks well within the scope of managed services providers, who are already hosting public-facing web sites. Removing this out-of-the-box feature of SharePoint Online, might actually result in some valuable business (over and above hosting) for Microsoft partners. They may even be able to provide a set of solutions capable of increasing demand for public-facing web sites with SharePoint Online, Office 365 on the back end.

Perhaps we will offer a set of training content on how to prepare a SharePoint Online presence for a public website built with 3rd party tools. Afer all, we did publish several sets of new training content on SharePoint Designer, 2013. The most prominent of these is Yaroslav Pentsarskyy’s set on branding SharePoint 2013 sites. The title of Yaroslav’s set is SP13-301 Branding in SharePoint 2013 – Downloadable Video Packages. Please contact me if you would like to learn more about this set of video training content, or any of the others designed to support organizations implementing SharePoint Designer, 2013.

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