Google with multiple accounts: How it should work

If you’re here, you probably already have a personal google account ([email protected] ) and a google apps account at work ([email protected] ). And if you didn’t have the 8–6, the kids to pick up from soccer and a burning lasagna in the oven you would probably be loading your handcuffs into the truck and hunting down Google’s Single Sign On product manager or working on your torture cave.

Okay, maybe a little extreme (FBI — joking.. totally joking) but I can’t understand how anyone uses this shit successfully. Here’s the issues I’ve noticed:

  • Some services can only have one account signed in, so if you start shopping at with your work account because you were just checking your calendar, you will have to logout, lose your shopping cart, and your calendar and gmail sessions, etc. No exceptions.
  • Some services allow you to switch between users, but when you switch, you switch all services in all windows, not just that one.
  • Extensions like google voice or calendar in your browser will be synced with the first account you logged into… which will of course change if one of the products which only allows one account (like play) screws you up and you need to fully sign out.

To sum, it’s a complete cluster fuck. I realize it is complex and there are probably edge cases I’m not considering, but here’s how I think it should work:

  • 95% of the time I check my calendar, it’s my work calendar. I don’t schedule cleaning, talking to my parents, drinking beer, bowling or pooping.
  • 100% of the time I use google voice, it’s my personal account, not work related.
  • 100% of the time I use Google Play it is to buy apps for my phone, not work related.
  • gmail is split 80% work / 20% personal. I use Mailplane for this anyway.
  • Google docs is mostly work, and occasionally personal
  • Youtube, News, Reader, Picassa is 100% personal
  • Google Plus is about 50/50

I figure I’m probably the 90% case here. Most people operate the same way. Here’s what I suggest Google:

  • Allow a default account for each service. If I visit the Calendar, always use my work account. If I need to use my personal account, allow me to switch and automatically switch me back to the default after a certain period of inactivity.
  • Make the account selector work in every service. In Play I have to logout instead of switching… why?
  • When I get a docs invite, try all my accounts and see if any work, don’t make me think.


Your loyal data collection point.

Jacob Singh
CTO in residence at Sequoia Capital. Independent product and Engineering Coach Mediocre guitarist, singer, rock climber, point guard and baker Dedicated dad. American in New Delhi.
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