Microsoft Outpaces Google with Single Sign-On For Linked Accounts

More more logging out and back in again... at least for Windows Live accounts.

One Google account, one Windows Live account. That's my ideal goal. One of my promises to myself over the holidays was to clean up and consolidate various online accounts I've set up on Google and Windows Live over time. I'm never been that sure whether I should have a different account for personal vs. companies vs. clients. Maybe I've made more of a big deal about keeping some things separate than I should but I don't always want to mix those things into one account if they can't later be separated out.

When a second company I'm a part of signed up as a Microsoft BizSpark program participant, I was faced with a dilemma because my primary Windows Live account is already associated with the BizSpark program for another company. I've faced this previously when needing to associate my account with more than one Microsoft partner. But I discovered something very useful in how Microsoft lets you manage multiple Windows Live accounts. Linking accounts.

Windows Live provides a drop down menu where your name appears in the upper right hand corner of the screen. Included in the menu is an option to Link Other Accounts. Turns out you can have multiple Windows Live accounts and associate them with each other. One may be personal, another for work, another for someone you're contracting to.

But linking Windows Live accounts does more than just associate them with each other. Once linked, you can sign in once, using any of the linked accounts, and flip between them using the same menu that drops down from your name. Handy? For me, extremely. So if I need to request a license key from the MSDN site, I don't have to log out and log back in using a different account. Just go to MSDN, select the appropriate account from the menu and start downloading.

Now, how do I solve the same problem with my Google accounts? My first dilemma was deciding which account I want to associate my Google Voice with, and what if I want to change it later. Gmail accounts are associated with one Google account, and can't be easily undone. Google Analytics and other services can't easily (or at all) be migrated between accounts.

Unfortunately Google does not offer an account linking capability. If life is simple and you only have one account, no problem, but if you've acquired more than a few Google accounts along the way, well… you're living with them for the foreseeable future. Given that Google's bet so heavily on the web apps model, Google really needs to come with something akin to Windows Live linking capability.

Until that time arrives, it means more logging in to Google, logging out, and logging back in again.

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