UPDATED. As Google has infiltrated many of our online activities — mail, calendaring, search history, blogging and even YouTube viewing — it asks us to use a single Google Account. But finally, the company is testing the option to allow users to use multiple accounts within the same browser, per the (unofficial) Google Operating System.
In the past, active Google users have had to develop kludgy workarounds to use multiple accounts. Many people have multiple roles in life and online, for instance as a personal Gmail user, a contributor to a group blog on Blogger, a reader of job-related industry news on Google Reader, a sharer of personal updates on Google Buzz, and a team coordinator on Google Calendar. (Other people, of course, are secret agents.) But Google didn’t acknowledge more than one identity.
Long ago, I got into the habit of keeping a Gmail account open for personal use in Firefox and for work use in Safari (though, now that we use Google Apps at GigaOM, that’s no longer necessary). Other people use things like Greasemonkey scripts or Chrome’s Incognito mode to shield their logins from being shared across that browser’s history.
The new multiple login screen doesn’t seem to be widely available — all we have is the screenshot posted on Google Operating System. It includes (for now) the Google products Gmail (but not in offline mode), Google Calendar, Google Reader, Google Docs, Google Sites and Google Code.
At SXSW this year, members of the Gmail and Buzz teams said that one big project they are working on is to allow more fluid use for users who have both personal and professional Google Accounts. This multiple sign-in feature seems to be the first step on that front. But what’s further needed is better integration between personal Google accounts and Google Apps accounts, especially as more companies move to the cloud. The idea that people will have one identity, both personal and professional, is naive.
Update: Google noted in an emailed comment that it had already talked about testing such changes.
“Back in May we announced that we will be rolling out changes to our infrastructure for Google Apps accounts, giving Google Apps users access to many more services. We’re currently testing this feature with many customers to get feedback on the user experience. We look forward to bringing this big improvement to the rest of our customers soon, but we have nothing further to announce at this time.”
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