Google's complete lack of account flexibility is really starting to irritate me

Summary:Google's lack of account flexibility needs to change.

I use a lot of Google services and I respect the company and its products. Last month, for example, I ran a very long series of how-tos for getting the most out of Google Voice. That said, I do not use Gmail as my primary email account and have been regularly snafu'd when trying to manage my various Google accounts.

It's really starting to irritate me.

<RANT>

Today, I tried to set up a new YouTube account. I gave YouTube my email address, only to be told the email address in question had been previously tied to another YouTube account -- one I'd created last year for my book, How To Save Jobs. Because the YouTube account HowToSaveJobs was tied to my email address, I can't use that email address with any other account, including a YouTube channel of just my own videos.

The thing is, the HowToSaveJobs YouTube channel is meant to be operated by the nonprofit the book is associated with. I'd like to let someone else in the organization be able to upload videos and maintain the account. But because the HowToSaveJobs account is tied permanently to my personal email address, I can't make that change.

I'd have to give a nonprofit volunteer the email address and password of my personal email account, just so they could upload videos. And that ain't ever going to happen!

This sort of thing has happened in other areas of Google Accounts.

I once created a simple mail tracking account, but -- prudently -- Google asked for a backup email address in case I couldn't log in. So I gave Google my personal email address for that, as well. Now, my email address is associated with that barely used (and weirdly named) Gmail account and I can't reassign it.

Now, it's entirely possible I'm missing a trick or Google changed its procedures and there is a way to reassign email addresses and consolidate accounts. I haven't found a way, and from the many discussion board postings I've read, it doesn't look like Google offers any form of account management.

I can't begin to tell you how many random Google accounts I have for various things that I'd like to consolidate, normalize, and make sane.

While it's always possible to just open up yet another Google account, that's not a best practice approach. More to the point, this may be holding back some migrations to Google services.

I currently have my main email account on a hosted Exchange server and I'd love to move to Gmail. But until I can be sure I can control my accounts, manage them, and not have them tied to historical detritus, I'm not making that move.

I am not alone with this problem.

I got an email recently from a colleague, a woman who registered all her accounts with her married name, went though an acrimonious divorce, and still has to use her ex-husband's last name on her Google accounts because she can't change them back to her own last name. It makes her crazy and since she's now doing professional business under her own name, it confuses everyone she works with.

She tells me that although she'd prefer to forget the tougher times in her life, because her email last name doesn't match her real last name, she's forced to recount her divorce story to almost anyone she gives her email address to. Apparently, now that she's active on Google Plus, it's even more annoying.

So here's what I'd like to see Google do.

I'd like to be able to assign and reassign email addresses to various account names. I'd like to be able change account names. I'd like to be able to consolidate accounts, so if I have three of a similar account, I can combine them into one. In short, I'd like to have comprehensive account management for my Google accounts.

I don't have any insight into why Google doesn't make account management easy and account renaming possible. One reason might be that it has indexed all transactions based on the account name string. If that's the case, well, that's not exactly a best programming practice.

I certainly don't know if that's why Google is restrictive about renaming accounts, but if that is the reason, something will almost undoubtedly break in the future because name-based indexing often breaks.

In any case, consider this an open plea to the wizards of the Googleplex. C'mon guys, make it possible for us to manage our accounts better. Please? Pretty please, with sugar on top?

</RANT>

Topics: Google, Collaboration

About

In addition to hosting the ZDNet Government and ZDNet DIY-IT blogs, CBS Interactive's Distinguished Lecturer David Gewirtz is an author, U.S. policy advisor and computer scientist. He is featured in The History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets, is one of America's foremost cyber-security experts, and is a top expert on savi... Full Bio

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