One Account, All of Google

One Account. All of Google.

I love that phrase. "The cloud." It's something we all see, some of us everyday, and yet we don't quite grasp the full meaning of those words. And that meaning is important. It's a very large part of Google's strategy and it is tantamount to understanding several of the 'grievances' that many users seem to have with Google and its services.

But above all, it's about Google's cloud and what it does for you, your data, and Android.

Let's take a look at what it really means.

All your things in one place

Icons for Google's many services

All Google services, including many Android services, link back to your Google Account. Your Google Account is what gives you access to most of these free Google services in the first place, and because you need only one account to access all of these various services, it helps unify your experience across these many services.

One login brings everything to your devices.

All of the data for your account — your Drive files and G+ photos and Play Store purchases — sits together in your account data on Google's servers. This is why one of the first steps of setting up an Android device or the Chrome browser is to log into your Google account. So all of your data, apps, and content comes together the way you like it on your device and it's all in one place for you.

Because you have a Gmail, you already have a Play Store account, even if you don't have an Android device to load up with apps. I started purchasing songs and videos in Google Play before I even had an Android because of the "One Account, All of Google" approach.

All your things everywhere

Add a Google Account

Because I have a Google account and my Google Account gives me the full Google ecosystem on just about any device I pick up, the videos I spend my hard-earned money on can be viewed from Android, iOS, or any PC with internet access (and Flash, accursed accursed Flash). I can log into any computer at work and play my videos just as easily as I could pull up my writings in Drive and keep drafting articles.

This is especially important, as it is one of the ways that Google has managed to become as popular an ecosystem as it is: Google doesn't care as much about what platform you use to access your Google Account so long as you're using a Google account. You don't even have to own a device to have and enjoy the Google experience. So long as you can log in somewhere - work, internet cafe, friend's house - you can use Google's many services.

All your things secured

That said, because one account gets you into all of Google, that means if that one login is compromised, you're in for a bad time (especially considering how many Google Accounts have credit cards tied into them). That's why good password habits and two-step authentication are important.

Google Authenticator Use it. Use it! USE IT!

And yes, the notion of all your Google account data sitting in a nondescript server in a farm somewhere around the world may seem slightly unsettling in this paranoid post-Snowden era, but a few quick things to remember here:

  • Google has nothing to gain by betraying our information to hackers.
  • Google complies with the government only when necessary and needed. They are not volunteering information willy-nilly, and they are not schtupping for the NSA.
  • These are web services, Google is a web search company first and foremost, and as such there will always be some degree of information that they have to keep in order for you to use their services.
  • Smartphones as they stand today likely would not exist, much less function the way they do without the existence of the cloud services that make them smart, useful, and desirable to consumers.

If you are well and truly paranoid and do not wish to utilize any Google service, you can disable it, and each service has its own privacy controls to let you control your information as much as it realistically possible. I trust Google with my data, just as millions of other users, schools and corporations do, but we are vigilant and we know that if and when Google violates that trust, we can take our business elsewhere.

Unity: why (I think) the Google+ profile isn't evil

Mr. Jingles eating pie. Does this look like the pie-eating face of evil to you?

Since everything in Google links together through that one account, it makes sense that you have one identity throughout all of those sites and services. And while the days of your Google identity being your Gmail address were cool, if a bit more spam-filled, that time has come to an end. With Google+ handling Google's social identities, I can use my Google Account to interact and engage anyone across the internet, on YouTube, in the Play Store, and of course on Google+, and the worst they can do is attempt a Hangout with me.

One account, all of google applies to social services as well.

Now, I'm not asking you to dive headfirst into Google+ and start engaging communities, but Google+ is the 'social layer' of Google. But it makes sense that if you want to do social things on Google's many services that you use one unified social profile, with one name and one picture. YouTube is free because of Google and ads, so using Google's login and social profile for it is a small price to pay, and the same goes for posting reviews and recommendations in the Play Store.

The only thing that isn't everywhere ...

Four words that spawned a thousand heartaches...

Now, there is one small caveat to the whole "your things in one place, everywhere" argument, and it's my most used Google app: Play Music. Even Play Movies are available wherever I log in and whatever device I add my account to, but Play Music is another matter. And it is a bizarre and strange thing to say that the music industry has more damning demands than the film industry in terms of regulation and restrictions.

Something is missing. It's leaving a hole in my heart, and my headphones.

Now, I'm perfectly happy with the ten device limit. I'd be able to get by with five, if it really came down to it. But the deauthorization limit means that there comes a point when I'll log into a new device, and everything won't be in one place. And that hurts because not only am I not getting the music that I pay for, to say nothing of the seven thousand songs that I own and uploaded to the service, but because it means that I am not getting 'all of Google' with my one account.

I hope this is sorted out soon. I don't understand what industry lobbyist thought this would cut down on piracy or account sharing, but we know and Google knows that this isn't helping anyone, and it's going to drive many a hardcore Android user away. And it fragments the Google ecosystem.

What it means at the end of the day

One of the many newsroom computers. 4x3, anyone? This is a work computer. There are many like it, but this one is mine... For today, anyway.

But as it stands, I have not hit my limit yet. Each time I come home to visit my parents and utilize their superior appliances, I log into my mother's computer and hop straight back into my writings in Google Drive. Each day when I go to work, I don't know which computer I'll be logging in on, if I get one at all, but whatever computer it is, once I'm logged in to my Google Account, it's my computer, and my things are right there waiting for me. Google and the cloud have the power to make any computer mine, if only for a little while, and it's a godsend.

One account, all Chromebooks. All computers

It's also why Chromebooks are being so well received by the schools across the country and around the world that have turned to them for simple, relatively cheap means of getting kids online, engaged, and learning. If a kid drops a Chromebook or karate chops it at lunch, he can be set up on another machine in less than five minutes and lose barely any of his work. As a cloud-centric system, his machine will automatically resume the settings and setup of the old one, and he can get back to writing his book report on Percy Jackson. All thanks to one account.