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? ) 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 email@example.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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 (email@example.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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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”
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.
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…