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 on the verge of allowing users to use multiple accounts within the same browser.

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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  1. Of all people, you guys should know what an operating system is.

    Unless you want to redefine the term to mean “a set of related or commonly used applications”

    But an operating system common logins do not make.

    1. Kevin C. Tofel gm Wednesday, July 14, 2010

      Fair point, but think ahead to Google’s ChromeOS devices that are due in this half of the year. Having used several early builds, I know that you need to log with a Gmail account, and I suspect that like most other computers, ChromeOS devices will support multiple user accounts.

    2. I was referring to the blog titled “Google Operating System.” http://googlesystem.blogspot.com/

  2. We all have many facets to our identity based on various types of relationships (business, personal, family, deeply personal, a huge number of various sorts of casual relationships, various combination of the aforementioned, etc.).

    The current predominance of multiple platforms that focus on a single facet of our identity tells the tale of just how new current online identity management platforms (e.g., Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) are, how fractured they are, and ultimately how poorly they do, especially with the big picture.

    This is a pretty big opportunity or someone to take the lead on.

  3. i really wish that there was a way to sign into gmail(or other google services) only.

    what i mean is i would like to be able to open gmail in one browser tab without every site that i visit knowing my google identity or being logged into google for search engine purposes.

    1. @Tom, yes you can do that with Lunacape by using different rendering engine. Open Gmail with a tab runs Trident, and open rest of tabs with Webkit/Gecko :D

  4. Did Google buy Broadscape? If so, is it because of the new “SoMo” push?

  5. Ricardo Barrera Wednesday, July 14, 2010

    I have to use 2 computers, each using 4 browsers (Chrome, FireFox, Safari and IE8), to manage my (client) “personas” simultaneously.

    1. Ricardo, you really don’t! Try portable browsers. Each one can operate in its own world entirely independently of the others. So you could run 8 instances of Chrome and save that extra computer for a different purpose.

  6. There is a browser for MacOS called Stainless


    The browser is very Chrome-esque with one HUGE advantage – you can open new tabs with a unique session ID (cmd+shift+T). This means that you can have multiple Google accounts open in one browser, each in it’s own tab.

    And an even cooler thing is that tabs spawned from a unique session ID parent share that parents ID! Very useful for having each account open with multiple apps for that account.

    Check it out!

    1. I wish there was something like this for Windows!

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  8. Rick Bellefond Friday, July 16, 2010

    Cool post. I have been wanting to have multiple Google accounts open for ages!

    Now if they would allow us to have one browser instance that was always signed on to Google Analytics and a second instance that was never signed on to Google so you could get accurate search results that would be really great.

  9. Rick Bellefond Friday, July 16, 2010

    Great post! I have been wanting to have multiple Google accounts open at the same time for ages.

    Now if they would only allow you to have one browser instance that always stayed logged on to Google for Google Analytics and a second browser instance that was never logged on to Google so you could check you current Google seo listings that would be perfect.

  10. Hagai Pipko Friday, July 16, 2010

    When they will merge Google Apps and Google Account, waiting years for that..

  11. You guys know there is a firefox addon called gmail manager, right?

  12. Thats wonderful

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