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iGoogle, but Which One? Time to Fix the Google Apps Chaos…

(Updated)

Now that they got a snazzy name (whatever happened to Google’s naming convention of coming up with beauties like Google Docs & Spreadsheets, Google Docs & Spreadsheets & Presentations & Wikis, & insert-new-product-here? smile_wink ) perhaps it’s time to eliminate the chaos Google caused by sloppy implementation of the otherwise great Google Apps service.

If you’re not familiar with the latter, I strongly suggest reading David Berlind’s excellent overview at ZDNet. He concludes that there are two parallel Google-worlds: the consumer, public one we all know, and one that’s being built somewhat under the radar, allowing businesses to customize their own domain, maintain users, security, business email, calendar, documents – essentially white-labeling Google’s applications.

That’s all great, except that access to the private-domain features is accidental at best – let me share my experience. When I signed up, I linked my own domain to may existing Google Account, which is tied to a Gmail address. Now I’m a happy gmail user while preserving my own domain. So far so good – trouble starts trying to access any other Google Apps.

  • I can easily get to them by direct URL’s in the form of calendar.mydomain.com, docs.mydomain.com …etc – but what happens when I try to *really* use them, say, import a calendar entry from upcoming.org, zvents, or any event site? The “old” calendar at myname@gmail.com comes up as default.
  • Recently I tried installing the Etelos CRM add-on to Google – guess what, it went to the personalized homepage (now iGoogle) at myname@gmail.com and I had no way to force it to install at start.mydomain.com – which is attached to the same Google account.
  • What about Gmail and Google Docs integration? If you use your “regular” gmail account and receive a Microsoft Word/Excel document, there’s an option to view them as a Google Doc or Spreadsheet. The first few times I tried to use the same option from my branded gmail account (name@mydomain.com) I got a “document not found” error. Google must have realized the trouble, they now removed the “View as Google Doc” option from Google Apps email.
  • Even the otherwise excellent Google Groups is messed up: when I am logged in as name@mydomain.com, Google Groups I am a member of with this account won’t recognize me. I actually have to have duplicate identities created in Google Groups: one to be able to send email (my own domain) and one to be able to access Group’s other features via the browser (@gmail format).

Perhaps it’s obvious by now that the trouble is not with the individual applications. The Google Accounts concept is a total chaos. It creates a dual identity, and while I can always access the private-label Google Apps via direct URL, in a short while the default pops up its nasty head and the original, public (@gmail) format and applications take over. Net result: I gave up trying to use Google Apps, except for Gmail. And I can’t help but agree with this TechCrunch commenter:

“…Instead I have this hamstrung barely functional thing where my login refuses to work anywhere else on Google and none of the apps have a link back to the portal page! So much for Single Sign On. And forget importing from an existing account in any slick way. A huge missed opportunity whilst the waste time playing with logos and bad branding on /ig”

Now, on a less serious note, back to the naming issue: If (when?) Google’s phone comes out, will it be an iPhone? After all, Steve Jobs has just demonstrated that being first does not mattersmile_sarcastic

Update (5/7/2007): I’ve been wondering why there was no huge outcry because of the above – after all it renders some apps quite useless. Now I understand: apparently you can now sign up for Google Apps directly with your domain, without having to tie it to a pre-existing Google Account. This is good news, since a lot less users are affected. This is also bad news, for the very same reason: less users, less pressure to fix it, so the early Beta users are stuck…

Update (1/20/08): I think it is fixed now. :-)

Related posts:

The Official Google Blog, Google Blogoscoped, TechCrunch, Lifehacker, parislemon, The Unofficial Apple Weblog, Techscape, VentureBeat, Micro Persuasion, Reuters, Search Engine Land, Googling Google, PC World: Techlog, Search Engine Roundtable, WebMetricsGuru,, Read/WriteWeb

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Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    agreed.

  2. Hey Zoli… You can go to http://www.crmforgoogle.com/blog_post.espx?show=12309

    and get help on how to add the modules to Google Apps. But I agree that the UI to add modules to iGoogle is currently easier that your start page for the Google Apps user. I personally talked to them about that on my wishlist.

  3. Zoli Erdos says:

    Hi Danny,

    Thanks, that was fast. But obviusly it’s a bigger problem then Etelos, or the Google Homepage, whichever version it it. It’s the lack of proper identity management.

    When you sign up to Google Apps, you should be able to decide if you merge data, ignore the generic one or not, whether your domain version or the generic (if not merged) should be the default for ALL apps..etc.

  4. Come on Google, say it with me, “Enterprise software is hard.” Its not the same as yet-another-beta feature roll out that may or may not work. If I pay you, I expect quality, bug fixes, support and SLAs. There is a reason enterprise software companies don’t roll out new products on a monthly basis. Driving traffic to a portal by building a cute website with one-day-a-week projects is different from building software that people rely on to run their businesses. I am sure Google will get there but it will have to learn a few new tricks (and give up some old ones) to get there.

  5. Voes of stuff that should be internal that is external.

    And, making me login again and again and again and again whenever I use any Google service even though it knows who I am (It even puts my UID there) sucks as well. Remember Me should mean remember me as long as you can.

  6. I am just now discovering the chaos of this and couldn’t agree more. I am surprised too that there isn’t more of an outcry about this. The potential is so HUGE here; maybe down deep I think they’ll get it right eventually. For now though, it’s painful.

  7. I’ve been using Google Apps for over a year now and essentially it’s great, but as everyone mentions there are a few really annoying bugs!

    Whilst the Google Apps start page has got much better allowing you to add nearly all of the gadgets that iGoogle has (this wasn’t the case at one point) there’s still a few bugs – Google Reader for example; it’s not offered by GApps, so you can’t add it to your start page as it’s associated with your private Google login.

    Any various greasemonkey scripts (for example on that creates tabbed pages within iGoogle) don’t work with the GApps start page…a little bit of transparency and continuity would go a long way!

  8. Glad to see I’m not the only person who thinks this is insane. The interesting thing though is that the two Google worlds *do* appear to have a lot in common, for example, it *is* possible to use the portlets from /ig on you GAFYD site:

    http://techennui.blogspot.com/2007/09/google-apps-for-your-domain-meets.html

    Google *ought* to merge the two environments and make the business homepages more like the iGoogle pages (with tabs, movable portlets etc) but I suspect that because this only affects a few early adopters, it’s not financially viable for them to put the manpower into it.

    It’s that danged ‘early adopter tax’ again :-/

    G

  9. I *want* to use Google Apps for my new site, but Google is making it incredibly difficult.

    First, there’s no migration process from regular Gmail. I upgraded to the Premier package, and there was no support doc that showed how to move Gmail email over to Googl Apps — I figured it out, but its slow (about 2GB of mail has taken 36 hours to transer 72% thus far) and all of Gmail’s “special” folders havent transferred over to the proper locations (Sent Mail, Drafts, All Mail, etc…they’re all just labels, so I’ll have to use IMAP to fix it later).

    Second, why the hell don’t Google App accounts automatically sync to a Google Account? If I try to login to my Google App account at gmail.com (name@domain.com), it prompts me to create a new Gmail. Google Reader, my 2nd most used app after Gmail, doesnt even have a Google App version.

    Zoli, you’re right…if they just fixed the Google Account issue, it would go a long way to solving a lot of issues. For example, then Google Apps users would be able to use the special Google page on an iPhone. Right now, its clear that Google’s priorities lie with the consumer version of its apps, not those who are actually PAYING to use them.

    There’s some serious issues here, and I’m not sure I want to take the full plunge just yet.

  10. And the chaos goes on.

    As of Jan, 2008 most if not all of the above remains a challenge. I wouldn’t mind this if it wasn’t for the fact that the paid version is considerably behind the free version of a Google Account. Anyone thinking of upgrading to premiere should wait till they get the bugs fixed.

    You should be able to migrate your old gmail account with no problem, but getting old emails to move isn’t going to happen easily for you. If you want to use widgets for Google Calendar etc on your start page, good luck.

    The thing I most wanted was to get to use gmail with my domain name and I can do that, but you loose a lot if you’re accustomed to using a personalized google home page.

  11. Alexander says:

    It’s now summer, and it’s still not fixed. And it probably will not be fixed in the near future either. The whole Google Apps thing is really a lousy schizophrenic service. You expect more, you receive less. You waste a couple of hours of configurating and then waste a bunch more out of annoyance. I used to be quite a fan of Google, but am moving to other services right now.

  12. Alexander, I thought it was more or less fixed for a while now.

  13. poker run says:

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  14. Jeff Schnitzer says:

    Bloody hell. It’s now nearly November of 2008 and all of these issues are still present. I just discovered Google Apps and thought it looked super-promising. But I’ve been having a hard time conceptually reconciling it with my regular Gmail/Reader/etc account… and it appears to be Google is having the same problem.

    Bummer.

    I guess I’m sticking with regular Gmail for now.

  15. January 2009. Still not fixed. I’ve been using GAFYD for over a year now, and am generally a big Google fan, but am getting more and more annoyed that Google don’t see fit to sort this stuff out. It’s like they started GAFYD with the right intentions… and then lost interest. C’mon Google, wake up!

  16. jonathan lewis says:

    Having just signed up for the Apps, I’m really suprised that its not as useful as the free offering. The Sites part could be great but what is missing is that killer gadget – the ability to see the mail hitting your own domain email address. Its the same functionality that you get for free with iGoogle and what makes iGoogle a much more useful tool. If Google could create that gadget for an Apps domain then they might have cracked it for me.

  17. October 2009 and still not fixed! I either have to use an apps account and a gmail account or have some dreadful have functioning google account with my apps e-mail, but the links to mail, calendar and docs don't work (it tries to take me to gmail/gcal and not my apps mail/calendar which is entirely separate).

    Stop being thick and sort it out!

    • I agree. This is insane and just doesn't make any sense. When I click onto a calendar link from another website, it takes me to the gmail login page. I enter my username from my GAFYD account, and it doesn't recognize it. It suggests, instead that I use a gmail account. I don't want to have two separate calendars. That's why I got the GAFYD account set up in the first place! Google, please listen to these threads. I can't imagine this would be so difficult to fix!!

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Trackbacks

  1. [...] I use Plaxo and they support syncing between Google Calendar and Outlook. Wonderful. However, Plaxo doesn’t support syncing with Google Apps for your Domain. Further proof that there’s some kind of frankencodebase thing going on in the back, or at least that the apps that use the API have to be smart about the URI they use. I haven’t seen if SyncMyCal supports Google Apps for your Domain, but the word on the street is that it DOES. The real question is why doesn’t the Google Calendar API just handle this using the logged in username? Probably because of this “split brain” issue that I’ve run into with two calendars associated with one email address. Again, a problem fixable if I could just DELETE the first calendar. I’m not the only one suffering. [...]

  2. [...] like I’m not the only one suffering here as Zoli posted about his Google Apps troubles [...]

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