Google got me

I’ve said before that although Google Chrome works well, I prefer to use Safari. Recently, though, Google’s made some changes that are forcing me to use Chrome.

Here’s the setup. I have two email addresses: a “Dr. Drang” address at GMail, and a work address that runs through Google via Google Apps for Business. Apple Mail on my work computer is tied only to my work email; Apple Mail on my MacBook Air is tied only to my Dr. Drang email. This isn’t necessary, I know, because IMAP allows multiple access points, but I still prefer this separation.

The separation isn’t perfect. I take my MB Air on business trips, and I use it to work from home, so I often need to access my work email from the Air. I usually read RSS feeds (via Google Reader, which is tied to my Dr. Drang account) during lunch at work, and I often update my bicycle mileage spreadsheet (also tied to my Dr. Drang account) when I arrive in the morning.

Until recently, handling the two accounts has been easy. Safari on both computers used cookies associated with the Dr. Drang account when I opened Reader or my spreadsheet. And Google Apps for Business had a special URL for accessing my work email that was treated like a different site entirely. I could sign on with my work account to access my mail via the GMail web interface on the Air without signing off my Dr. Drang account.

All was right with the world.

A couple of weeks ago, though, Google changed the way Apps for Business accounts work. They’re now more like regular Google accounts, and I can no longer be signed in to both my work and Dr. Drang accounts in Safari simultaneously. If I need to get a work email from my Air, I have to sign out as Dr. Drang, then sign back in with my work credentials. And the next time I want to check my RSS feeds, I have to do the reverse. Annoying.

My first thought was that I could get around this by setting up a site-specific browser (SSB) for my work email using Fluid. Didn’t work. Apparently there’s some cookie mingling between Safari and the Fluid SSBs, so I couldn’t be signed in to one account in Safari and the other in the SSB.

The solution was to use Chrome to access my work email on the Air. Because it has its own set of cookies, it presents itself to Google as the “work me,” while Safari presents itself as the “Dr. Drang me.” I don’t use Chrome for any other browsing, so it’s acting as a kind of SSB for me.

It’s appropriate, I suppose, to use Chrome to access GMail. Both of them are fast; neither of them look or work quite right.

Update 6/27/11
Josh B. in Comment 2 told me about Google’s multiple sign-in arrangement, which I’d never heard of and which is disabled by default. There are some restrictions in its use, but I don’t think they’ll affect me.

I wasn’t going to bother writing this post—there wasn’t much to it—but if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have learned of this better solution. Thanks, Josh!

Update 6/27/11 (later)
OK, now Google is just toying with me. As of this evening, my two accounts are working the way they did a few weeks ago. As I type this, I have two tabs open in Safari: a Google Reader tab associated with the Dr. Drang account and a GMail tab associated with my work account. No need to use the “switch account” command.

Did Google’s programmers change the behavior back because of complaints like mine? Is this a temporary mixup as they move to something even more user-unfriendly? Tune in tomorrow…