Havoc With Google Accounts

For the past week, I was surprised to discover that despite having an active Google Analytics account, I kept getting a message when logging in that new accounts weren't being offered. I didn't need a new account. I needed access to my existing one, which appeared to have gone away along with my data. After further investigation today, it's a symptom of a bigger problem, that of the Google Accounts system overall being in a mess.

To recap, Google has operated a Google Accounts system for well over a year. The idea is that by having one Google Account -- one single username and password -- you'll be able to make use of the various services that Google offers.

Unfortunately, some people have logins for individual Google services that predate the Google Accounts setup. Some may even have two or more different Google Accounts logins. That's making life harder for the system to really work the way it is supposed to do.

For example, here's my situation:

  • Google Accounts Login #1: I have a Google Accounts login using a non-Google email address that's associated with services such as Froogle, Google Groups and Personalized Search.
     
  • Google Accounts Login #2: When my Gmail account was created, Google Accounts didn't exist. Later, Google Accounts came along and with it, a second Google Accounts login based on my Gmail address. That login gives me access Gmail but not to other services associated with my non-Gmail login. So if I want personalized search, I have to sign-up for that anew or log-out and log back in using a different username.
     
  • AdWords: I have an AdWords login created way back when AdWords began. Even though it uses the same username as one of my Google Accounts, the two aren't unified. If I'm logged into AdWords, I can't access other services.
     
  • AdSense: Uses the same login as AdWords and thus has the same problems as AdWords, in terms of other services. Even if I'm logged into AdSense, I still have to log into AdWords separately.

These problems have been mildly annoying to some degree until now, such as having to log out of my non-Gmail Google Account and login using my Gmail one if I want Gmail to show up on my personalized home page. But the analytics goof-up really made me want to dig deeper today.

When I signed up for Google Analytics to test it back when the new free accounts were launched, I used my Gmail-based Google Accounts login. Last week, when signing in, I forgot this and kept using my non Gmail-based Google Accounts login. As a result, instead of seeing my stats, I was told:

Google Analytics has experienced extremely strong demand, and as a result, we have temporarily limited the number of new signups as we increase capacity. In the meantime, please submit your name and email address and we will notify you as soon as we are ready to add new accounts. Thank you for your patience.

I sent a message to Google through the regular feedback mechanism on this last Friday but hadn't heard back via that route. In the meantime, I finally figured out on my own that it was related to having two different Google Accounts logins.

Shouldn't I have known this? Not if I logged into my Google Account control panel to see what I was signed up for. Supposedly, you're shown all the existing services that are associated with your Google Account plus new services you can try. But Google Analytics doesn't show up, plus the control panel has other issues.

For example, this is what I see with one of my accounts:

Edit Services Info
    Froogle Shopping List
    Google Groups
    Google in Your Language
    Google Video Upload Program

Try New Services
    Google Mail
    orkut
    Google Alerts
    Google AdWords
    Google AdSense
    Google Print Publisher Program

It sounds like you just click on any of the new services, and you can add them to your existing ones. However, it's not that easy. Gmail isn't available unless you have an invite or stumble across the code-via-SMS option.

So if you click on the Google Mail link at Google Accounts, you're told merrily to use your Google Account to sign-in. It specifically says this above the sign-in box:

Sign in to Google Mail with your
Google Account

But if you try to do that, you get this:

Sorry, this is not a valid Google Mail login.

You cannot log into Google Mail using your Google Account username and password.

Google Mail is in a limited test period and is only available to a small number of people who are helping test and improve the service before it is made more widely available.

If you have been asked to test Google Mail and have not yet created a Google Mail account, please click on the link in your invitation email.

If you have been asked to test Google Mail and have already created a Google Mail account, please try to log in again using your Google Mail username and password.

Got that? You cannot log in using your Google Account username and password -- yet you were just told to log in using exactly that! What's going on?

Actually, if you have a Gmail account, you do log in using your Google Account username and password. It will just be a Google Account login that's completely independent from any other Google Accounts logins you might have.

For example, remember that list above? That was for my non-Gmail Google Accounts login. Here's the rundown for my Gmail one:

Edit Services Info
    Google Mail

Try New Services
    orkut
    Google Alerts
    Froogle Shopping List
    Google Groups
    Google in Your Language
    Google AdWords
    Google AdSense
    Google Print Publisher Program

Now here's an annoying thing. Do you see Google Analytics on that list? Nope, not at all. This is despite the fact that Google Analytics is indeed an existing Google service associated with this particular Google Account.

Next, let's scoot over to AdSense. If I try to sign-in over there using either of my Google Accounts logins, I get this message:

Welcome! You're signed in to Google Accounts under the email [###] and your Google Account password, but this is not a valid AdSense login. If you're an AdSense advertiser, try signing in using your AdSense email and password. Or, sign up for AdSense.

To see AdSense, I have to use different login info -- in particular, one with a different, more secure password that is at least seven characters in length and contains letters and numbers.

Once logged in, let's go over to AdWords. AdWords uses the same login info as AdSense, but despite being logged into AdSense, I still have to log in again to AdWords.

If you haven't been to AdWords for some time, it will urge you to unite your AdWords account with a Google Accounts login. By January 15 of next year, everyone must do this, you're also told. Google started people along the migration path back in September.

I went through the wizard today. Once completed, I headed over to see if AdWords was listed under my "Edit Services Info" area in the Google Accounts control panel. Nope, not there. It was gone from the "Try New Services" area, at least.

Also, since changing AdWords over also changed AdSense to use Google Accounts -- as the wizard made extremely clear -- why's AdSense still showing up as a new service to try?

I suspect that's because despite what the wizard said, changing AdWords over did NOT change AdSense to also use a Google Accounts login. It certainly didn't for me. I still have to use my old AdSense login info despite having done the wizard unification thing.

Overall, it's a mess. Here's what I'd like to see:

  • When you log into Google Accounts, you get a list of EVERYTHING associated with that account plus links into the appropriate control panels at each service without having to log back in to each of these.

    For example, I have a Google Sitemaps account using Google Accounts. But that's not listed, nor can I click over from the Google Accounts control panel to my Google Sitemaps control panel. Moreover, despite being signed into Google, Google Sitemaps makes me sign-in all over again.
     
  • Google to figure out a way to unify Gmail-based and non-Gmail based accounts.
     
  • When you go into ANY Google service that predates Google Accounts, that service prompts you to unify via a wizard or whatever. Google AdWords does this. Orkut does this. AdSense does NOT. I want consistency.
     
  • Requiring more secure passwords for some services should go away, since Google Accounts does NOT require them. Ironically, when I forgot my Google AdWords password, I was allowed to reset it with restrictions on what it could be. But when I unified AdWords to use my Google Accounts login, suddenly the less restricted, supposedly less secure password that Google Accounts uses over there was OK.
     
  • The Google Accounts control panel should list every single service that Google offers (such as Google Sitemaps, which doesn't currently show). You should be able to click and sign-up for these or unify them with your Google Account if they aren't already unified. And if a service is in a closed beta, list that, but also explain it's not open to everyone with links to full info on how to finagle an invite.

I know Google's aware of some of these issues, especially the Gmail problems, because it has come up informally when I've raised it with them before. But I'm checking to see if there's any news on when that or other changes might come and will postscript as appropriate.

Postscript: Turns out a day later, my Google AdSense account did migrate over. What happens is that your old password plus your new password from Google Accounts will both work. It's something Google says it is doing temporarily to help ease the transition.