I do not understand the way Google handles their accounts. I have (well, had) two Google accounts: a gmail account (david.b.carlton) that I never used and another account (associated to my public e-mail address) that I use all the time for reading blogs. On the recommendation of some friends, I decided to start using Google as a spam filter, forwarding my mail through their servers; to that end, the natural thing to do would be to unify those accounts, tell the gmail account to forward non-spam mail to my public e-mail address, and bask in the drastically reduced volume of spam that I receive. (Along with some procmail rules on my public account to route e-mail through gmail unless gmail has seen it already.)

Well, no. Some issues that turned up:

  • You can’t unify an existing gmail account and an existing Google account associated with a non-gmail e-mail address.
  • You also can’t do that indirectly by deleting the gmail account and then creating a new gmail account with the same e-mail address as the previous one but with the new gmail account linked to the existing Google account: even if you’ve deleted a gmail account, you (or anybody else) still can’t create a new gmail account with the same name.
  • If a gmail account is linked to an external e-mail address, gmail gets extraordinarily possessive of the latter e-mail address: it refuses to forward e-mail to that address, and it also refuses to forward e-mail that was originally sent from that address.

The upshot is that, after an hour and a half of frustration, I ended up where I started: I still have a Google account that I use all the time linked to my public e-mail address, I have a separate gmail account (which is now forwarding mail to my public e-mail address), but that separate gmail account has a name that I like somewhat less than the name of my first gmail account. (Or, for that matter, than the name of a second gmail account that I created but was then unable to use for the purposes that I wanted.)

I’m actually a little sympathetic to their behavior on the first two issues: the first smells to me like legacy implementation headaches, and I can see how their decision on the second issue avoids a certain class of problems. But their behavior on the third issue just seems like a conscious choice of bizarreness: why refuse to forward to the one external address that I’m guaranteeing is mine? Just because I have an account with Google to use their services doesn’t mean that I’m handing all control of my e-mail over to them…

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