Why I am letting my Google IO invitation expire

HI, [REDACTED]. Thanks for writing to express your concern about my failure to redeem my Google IO promo code. It’s kind of a funny story.

I received a Google IO invitation (copied and pasted below) but didn’t follow up on it because the invitation did not say anything about what Google IO is, who it is for, or why I would want to attend it (if it is an event) or use it (if it is software) or do something else with it (if it is something else).

The Google IO invitation merely gave me complicated directions to sign up for Google IO, no doubt on the assumption that I would gladly attend, download, or sign up for anything that comes from Google, even without knowing what it is; and that, as an unemployed millionaire, I would have plenty of free time to decipher and obey complicated sign-up directions without knowing anything about the product, service, or event.

One of the complexities Google mentions in their invitation letter which fails to explain anything about the product or service they want me to sign up for is that, to qualify for Google IO, I must start a Google+ account. They don’t explain what Google+ is, either, but as it happens, I already have a Google+ account.

My Google+ account is assigned to my Gmail address. But instead of writing to me there, Google wrote to me at my zeldman.com address. My zeldman.com address is actually managed via Gmail, so I should be able to log into my Google+ account whether I am signed in as my Gmail identity or my zeldman.com identity, but Google+ doesn’t work that way. Google+ only works for free Gmail accounts. It does not work for paid corporate accounts like mine. That has always seemed an odd decision to me: if you can only provide services to a subgroup of your users, why not choose the subgroup that pays? But I am not Google.

So Google wrote to my zeldman.com address, which they won’t allow me to associate with my Google+ address, to invite me to start a Google+ account (which I already have) on my zeldman.com account, which they won’t support. And if I do that (which I can’t), and some other complicated stuff, they promise that I will then be able to participate in Google IO, whatever that is.

And now they have written to warn me that my Google IO, whatever it is, will stop being offered if I don’t sign up (which I can’t) right away. And they even convinced you, my friend, to send a personal note ensuring that I don’t miss the opportunity to sign up for their unspecified product or service with the account they don’t support before the unexplained offer is terminated.

While I should be curious about Google IO and what I will miss if I fail to take advantage of the cumbersome offer, what I’m actually far more curious about is how an organization that can’t write an effective direct marketing email message has managed to become one of the most powerful corporations of the 21st century.


We recently sent you an invitation to register for Google I/O 2012 and noticed that you have not redeemed your promo code, which will expire at midnight PDT on March 25.

[ How to register ]
1. Make sure you have a Google+ account as it is required to register. Get Google+ at http://www.google.com/+
2. Visit the registration page at
3. Use Promo Code: [REDACTED]. This code can only be used once.

[ Tips to Ensure Successful Payment With Google Wallet ]

1. Make sure your Google Wallet account is tied to the same Google+ account you use to register.

2. In case your bank declines your purchase through Google Wallet, you may need to call the bank that issued your credit card and let them know that you want to make a large purchase. Some banks may decline large purchases that appear to be out of your normal purchase behavior.

3. If Google Wallet is not available in your country, please email [email protected] to have our support team process your payment.

[ Tips to Ensure Successful Registration With Google+ ]

1. Sign into your Google+ account before you try to redeem your code.

2. To ensure you have created a Google+ account, log into your Google account and go to https://plus.google.com/. If you land on a page asking you “To join, create a public Google profile.” then you don’t yet have a Google+ account and follow the instructions to create one.

3. If you have multiple Google accounts, be sure to sign out of all Google accounts and sign in with only your Google+ enabled account.

4. You can use a personal or company managed Google+ enabled account to complete your registration.

If you have any questions, please email [email protected]

The Google I/O Team

97 thoughts on “Why I am letting my Google IO invitation expire

  1. Reminds me of my name and Google and that’s really complicated cause I had a Wave account once that I never used, but Brian Oberkirch pinged me with a wave once so Google thinks I did. I also did NOT get an I/O invite, but think I should’ve cause all that I do for G+, which is a LOT.

  2. I enjoy the fact that you are placing the user experience a higher value than that utility (Google IO). You are guided in life by experience, not destination.

  3. And if you continue to ignore us, the Google police will come to your Google home, knock down your Google front door…and Google you.

  4. Hmm, I/O’s been around awhile. I went to the first one in ’08 I think. Good times. Good Food. Good Band. “Free” Droids in subsequent years. Although they should let celebrities like you in for free. They should fly you there. Now-a-days I just watch the sessions on the web.

  5. Google just continues to do sketchier and sketchier things. I’m very worried about this type of behavior from such a prominent company. Happy for your analysis…thanks for your analysis, Zeldman.

  6. And by writing this, you drive many of us to search – “What is Google IO” and therefore accomplishing more for Google than their email ever did. All part of their master plan I’m sure. ha!

  7. It actually is an event – though I’m sure you knew that ;) Pretty bloody convoluted email. I also have Google Apps and if there’s one thing that frustrates me more than anything about Google (aside from gmail) is the way they handle accounts, forcing you to sign up for @gmail accounts when I don’t want one and the switch accounts mess you have to deal with afterwards.

  8. Really? This is bullshit. First of all, my 80 year old grandma knows what’s Google I/O, if you live inside a bottle isn’t Google problem. Also, you can login with Google apps account to G+, if you don’t know how to click also isn’t google’s problem. About the rest of the post, jumped right here after reading so many bullshit. Go and use your aol account

  9. This can’t be real. Please someone tell me it’s a parody. Surely no company can be buried so far up their own marketing colon to force this registration system on people just to get a couple more users on their social platform?

    Oh. It’s Google.

  10. I hate Google like the next guy, but I’m scratching my head here — We’re talking about Google Apps, right? Because they added Google+ support ages ago. Perhaps you missed a domain service toggle?

  11. One odd thing is that I am using Google+ with my Google apps account. I don’t pay them for the Google apps account, so does that mean they allow Google+ for free Google Apps accounts, but not the paid ones? This is all so complicated.

  12. Not that it matters, but Google+ had been available for Google Apps accounts since some time in late 2011. Not by default, though; needs to be enabled in control panel.

  13. Fantastic point Erick P. I do agree, now that everyone that has never received or heard what Google IO is for sure now is looking at it.

    It is a master plan. That’s why they’re Google Jeffrey ;-)

  14. BRAVO!

    That absolutely needed to be done by someone other than me that has multiple metric tons more streetcred than me.

    Thank You Zeldman!

    Now will Google make a change……. I highly doubt it.

  15. I have had the option of enabling Google+ on both of my Google Apps domains since last year some time. It seems odd that you were excluded from what appears to have been a universal rollout.

  16. I would have gladly taken the Invite.

    Honestly, this wasn’t too difficult to figure out after reading the email itself. And like has been already said, Apps support was enable a while back, no?

  17. I truly believe when you have to answer to a board of investors, most good will gets crushed! What once was a “decent” company, has been reduced to the average $ chaser! When will people learn there are more important things than the almighty dollar. How about Ethics? Oops I forgot that Ethics and $ have a hard time being friends.

  18. Like @lizardboy, I have Google+ on my paid-for Google Apps account. I happened to come across the option to enable it by chance – I don’t remember it being announced – but I’m surprised you wouldn’t have the option by now.

    Anyway, back to the topic at hand – yes, the whole registration process seems needlessly convoluted and dependant on Google’s products. Why not a simple form + credit card option for those who don’t want G+ and/or Google Wallet?

    I can sense a Gruber “Open” snark coming… :)

  19. Um, I believe the promo code is in the URL just above the line where you rejected it, by the way.

  20. Wow. I *had* a G+ account, but deleted it because I wasn’t using it (G+ == DOA) and it felt like an unnecessary privacy hole.

    I find myself exhausted by all of the options out there. I have acknowledged that I can’t maintain a presence on every. single. platform — Tumblr! Twitter! Pinterest! and I’m only signing up for services that I actually *need* these days.

    Live simply…..

  21. Google+ is available for Google Apps accounts. They even announced a migration tool in October 2011, which should allow you to get your Google+ data from normal accounts over there. Don’t try to find it.

  22. Whilst you’re post was a very enjoyable read, Google’s email was tl;dr and would have gone straight into my trash folder.

    Having said that, their email is a perfect example of keyword placement. 26 “Google”s in 300 words. Wow!

  23. I still don’t know what Google I/O is and better not Google it in case it causes the implosion of the Universe…

  24. WOW, whatever IO is the signup is a non starter. We are so ‘engaged’ these days with information that raw information alone and not vendors compete for our attention.

    Making things difficult discourages people. Life is complicated enough without your invitation, software, or whatever competing for complexity.

  25. Yeah, yeah, Google is evil now. Okay. But to say Google “has managed to become one of the most powerful corporations of the 21st century” but that they should send you a message about Google, the company and what services they provide is a joke, right? And, yeah, they want you to pay with Google Play Wallet or whatever it is instead of Paypal or iTunes. Is that really a surprise?

    Anyway, I could see an argument that Google is “bubbling” the audience of Google I/O to only be fanboys and girls but that’s probably true of every conference like this.


  26. Fact is, it’s hard to do this stuff right.

    And, worse, it’s boring.

    I would be so disappointed with Google if, rather than pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, they started paying attention to their users.

  27. Well I’m not a Grandma nor do I live inside a bottle, but I too have absolutely no idea what Google I/O is. From the other comments here, I now think it’s some kind of trade show or conference – though I could be wrong. And this *is* Google’s problem.

    This “clause” in the e-mail is even more off-putting:

    “2. In case your bank declines your purchase through Google Wallet, you may need to call the bank that issued your credit card and let them know that you want to make a large purchase.”

    whatever it is, it sounds like it’s incredibly expensive. And I’m not going to use Google (or Bing or any other search engine) to find out what it is.

  28. There you have it. A desperate corporation, trying to force users to sign up for a useless service which no one wants to use (Google+) to snap up an user’s social interactions in an effort to try to fend off Facebook.

    Sad state of affairs…

  29. First, Google I/O is an annual developer’s conference that has been taking place for the last several years in San Francisco.

    Second, you can create a Google+ account using your google apps for domains account, just go to google+ while signed into it.

    Third, the email address of your Google+ account does not have to match the email the invitation was sent to in order to use the invite code in the email.

    I received the email at my work email account (which does use Google Apps), but I already have a Google+ account using my normal gmail account. I was able to use the gmail account to register using the code from the email without any problems. When it asked me if I wanted to enter in an alternate email address (in addition to my Google+ address), I put in the work address they sent the original invite to (just in case they want to check)

  30. I enabled my Google+ account for my paid Google Apps account, but couldn’t find a way to migrate my G+ circles from my stand along Gmail account.

    Turns out, I’m not using G+ enough to expend the energy to migrate my circles to my paid Google Apps G+ account.

    Jeff, could critique GMail’s UI on Mac OS X Lion next please…

  31. The irony of the commenters saying that to make it all work you just need to do a couple more steps that Google left out is amazingly delicious.

  32. What year was this post written? IO has been around for awhile, as is ability to use Google+ with paid google apps account. Any Rooney voice, for sure.

  33. You’re failing to see the subtle genius in this. How would you find the answers to all the questions that arose as a result of this bizarre missive? Google it.

  34. Google is shady company, the management is shady, they have lost their way. They are the new Yahoo.

  35. Seems like you have been around too long on the Internet. Your bragging about being a millionaire makes me want to puke. And how could anyone on the Internet for so long not know about Google IO? I’d prefer conferences without your presence because your attitude would just ruin everything. Why do you need to feel like you’re better than everyone else.

  36. >>but Google+ doesn’t work that way. Google+ only works for free Gmail accounts

    That’s not true. That was certainly the case a few months ago but since Corporate Google app users can create Google+accounts if their admin allows it from ( from the google apps dashboard).

  37. Now I understand how they get registered users to google plus.
    They require to register their for every stupid thing.
    Nicely competing with facebook, Google!

  38. How long till you need a G+ account to search at Google.com? That or soon they’re going to start paying people to use G+.

  39. man, if google started being apple or microsoft and actually caring about users, i would be so goddamn sad. because almost all users are mediocre beings: they don’t ‘get it’, they don’t wanna ‘get it’, and they always look for the easy way out. so yeah, kudos for the people NOT on g+, not on gmail or using google or even going to i/o. because of people like you i can enjoy my future tech in a ‘moron-free’ environment.

  40. That actually is pretty funny. And as always Mr Zeldman, you always infer the irony in just the right amount of sarcasm…

  41. (The fact that you’re not a millionaire makes me want to puke.)

    As I’ve said many times, Google is great at coming up with innovative new tech, but sucky at the boring stuff. Such as communicating properly with their users. Or making their various products interoperate. Or designing a coherent UI that’s comprehensible to non-hackers. Or…

    But I guess that’s just sour grapes on my part. Google has this problem because they only hire brilliant people who do creative stuff. They don’t hire dumb people who do the routine stuff that transitions products from Beta to Something Everybody Uses. Some I’m one of those dumb people, I can’t get them to look at my resume. And I *so* need to find a job at a company with a decent cafeteria!

  42. Google I/O is for enthusiastic developers who use Google’s services. So, if you a part of the target audience, you will already know what Google I/O is. If you’re not a part of the target audience, they’ll be happy for you to let your invite expire. That’s just the way it is. If they had been overly descriptive and tried to over-sell the conference to you, they would have been doing hard-code developers a disservice. In fact, many were hoping there would be some sort of coding challenge just for the ability to pay $900 for a ticket.

  43. About 10 years ago my boss asked me to add a link to Google on our corporate website. I said, “How about if I add a link to Yahoo, then people could use it to find Google?” A week later I got fired… and now this… Google has a lot to answer for!

  44. 1) “Why do I have to register as an Apple Developer to activate my WWDC 2011 Conference Ticket?” https://developer.apple.com/products/wwdc/

    2) “Individuals enrolling in the iOS Developer Program will need:” https://developer.apple.com/support/ios/enrollment.html
    a) “Apple ID”
    b) “A valid credit card for purchase and identity verification.”
    c) “We may also require additional personal documentation to verify your identity.” https://developer.apple.com/support/ios/identity-verification.html

    3) google+ is open to apps accounts since last year..

    4) google is “one of the most powerful corporations of the 21st century” and you don’t know what google IO is, and you call yourself “KING of Web Standards”, and google is, ironically, the (one of) biggest web company.

    what, you didn’t feel special enough because you didn’t receive a free invitation?

  45. Who are you… zeldman… and why did I arrive at your website complaining like a little spoiled brat.

    I read the email, and if it really doesn’t make sense you got serious issues, and should not be preaching about web development ;)

  46. Google is great for selling our private data out to the FBI and advertisers. Wake up, Google sheep!

  47. The keystone of your argument is that you can’t use your Google Apps For Your Domain email with Google+, which is not true. I also use Gmail for my domain, and I have it registered with a Google+ account.

    I am not defending Google – but I feel this needs mentioning.

  48. Google’s invitation looks like a Google interview question in disguise. Indeed, if you actually understand it enough to register for Google I/O (whatever that is) I bet they’d hire you. :-/

  49. @Isaac Rabinovitch

    What amazing new and innovative tech has Google come out with recently? Their Search engine was new and innovative. Gmail wasn’t bad either. Beyond that? Android is built on Linux and Ripped off of iOS. Google+ isn’t remotely innovative. Google hasn’t innovated in years. Google sells ads, that’s where ther money comes from and it drives all that they do.

  50. @diskostu: Could Google trouble themselves to include that link in their email? No? I didn’t think so.

  51. ● A Google+ account is required to register.
    ● Your Google Wallet account must be tied to the same Google+ account you use to register.

    This sounds like a Nigerian Mail scheme. You have won a large sum of money but you have to open a bank account with us and deposit all your savings before we’ll tell you how much.


  52. For those explaining how to use a corporate account with Google+, there is now an easier way: simply sign up for Google++, and it’s easy. And, you will be much happier with the more complete integration possible will Google++.

    Anyone who wants an invite to Google ++, ping me on my Google+, and I’ll send you one.

    Also, Google will be giving Goggle++ invites away at Google IO to anyone who has a Goggle+ account ( as long as you are already registered with Google Play Wallet or Google Wallet or Google+ Wallet or Google Wallet+ (except for countries which don’t allow Google Play Wallet, Google Wallet, or Google+ Wallet, or Google Wallet+; for those countries, Google is rolling out Google– to allow access), or, if you are a transition country, simply register for a free Google+/– account before accepting the invite to Google++).

  53. I totally agree!

    I would have done the same thing, they invited you to come right? Do it in a decent way without requiring you to jump through loop holes or behold the delete button.

  54. The reason Google got so big is the rest of the search sites suck worse. And at one time they actually cared about something more than ad revenue. Now they’re an advertising company trying to figure out how to run ads on our eyelids while we sleep.

  55. It seems all too common that Google is just trying to cram G+ down people’s throats, and despite their best efforts, they are failing at it. What’s more important is that if they DO now support G+ for corporate users they DIDN”T at the start which is a slap in the face to paying customers. That leads me to believe that they don’t really give a crap about making things work right – they just want people to use what they hash out and to follow orders. IF that is the case, declining the invitation would be the FIRST of many steps I’d be doing moving AWAY from them.

  56. I’m not sure whether Zeldman is joking about not knowing what Google I/O is or not. The point is that if this is how Google thinks you communicate with the world, it is a wonder how they became so powerful. What is Google I/O? Why the marketing gimicky name? Why do I have to sign up for the whole plethora of Google services? And, will they be serving Koolade?

    Compare this to what Apple does. First, Apple’s developer conference is called (wait for this…) the World Wide Developer Conference? Is it a software package? An event? A non-dairy dessert topping? It’s a CONFERENCE. I can see that in the name. And, who should go? DEVELOPERS! See how easy that is? Here’s a company that’s best known for it’s marketing savvy, and they managed to call their developer’s conference a “developer’s conference”.

    And, when you go to the WWDC, you don’t have to sign up with Ping, have an iCloud account, and pay through iTunes. Heck, you don’t even have to own a single Apple product. You fill out a web for and pay the way you want. They’ve even put the price on their invitations. (It was $1,600).

    One time, not that long ago, Google was a nice company. Unfortunately, Google turned into a budding Microsoft when they introduced Google+ and people didn’t immediately jump on the bandwagon.

    Now, every single resource at Google has turned towards getting people onto Google+. Google’s Terms of Service were modified to push Google+, Google used a programming back door to override people’s browser privacy settings. Heck, Google is even jiggering their search results in order to push Google+.

    It’s sad to see a company that has so quickly abandoned its “colt tech” roots and turned down the rocky path paved with marketing.

  57. I do love you, but you have become the king of the bitter, kvetchy Interwebz.

    Lighten up. It’s good for you.

  58. @ MarkG “”the Google police will come to your Google home, knock down your Google front door…and Google you.””

    Brought me to tears sir. Thank you.

  59. Mr. Zeldman, by now you’ve been told repeatedly that you could have done this and that I’m certainly not going to nit-pick details with you here – because all I wanted to do was thank you for a very entertaining read. It’s appreciated.

  60. Mr. Z… I think I understand what you are ticked about and I am with you 100%. Corporates and governments feel inclined to run roughshod over their “customers” and expect us to take it.

    I generally get a far better class of spam than the patronizing and vaguely threatening letter you posted from the folks at “do no evil”.

    P.S. I know you aren’t an “ unemployed millionaire” (yet)… but, please keep at it!

  61. Google+ works for paid google accounts… you just need to turn it on (it is off by default).

  62. I always wonder why just about every other thing, email, communication from a corporation assumes you already know what they are talking about when a simple one or two sentence ‘paragraph’ would clear things up and save EVERYONE a lot of time….

    Or why a 3 step process is at least 4 steps, where the 4th (and unstated – or ASSUMED) step takes 20+ minutes and will rarely give you a valid progress indication.

    This is awesome UI, user experience and attention to detail – NOT!

    This IS why monkeys mindlessly muddle through mad button clicks and pros ignore everything and they wonder why the fook the COMPANY fails so often to communicate.

    Is this not the communication age? Are we on the information super-traffic-FUBAR-SNAFU?

    Maybe I am over reacting.

  63. Well, in my opinion, it all comes down to the following:

    Mr. Zeldman is a cool, very recognized person (in this industry), who hangs out with all the cool and recognized people (in this industry). People in this industry want to be Mr. Zeldman.

    So, in Mr. Zeldman’s eyes, people at Google should be a lot more explicit about their intentions to have him at their exclusive and elitist event. However, people at Google think that they themselves are very cool, and people will need to go the extra mile to redeem their exclusive invitation.

    Not Mr. Zeldman, because he is a cool motherfucker who will not go the extra mile to hang out with more cool, interesting people, because he already has all of that in his life. Google should know this.

    I am not cool and I would take the invite.

  64. I believe the Google augmented reality glasses are required to understand the email message you received.

  65. Sorry, but couldn’t keep this to myself: This post represents the web influencer rock-star snobby attitude that has made me almost stop reading this blog in the first place. (alongside with the massive promo of books and events)

    To the point: I don’t know if the argument regarding Google (business) Apps and normal Gmail account integration is accurate (seems not), but thinking of the plethora of tools, platforms, services Google owns and manages I would be a bit less harsh on the critique(and would cross-check the facts to begin with). Especially when it just doesn’t look good to diss another conference (even coming from a web giant) when you are organizing one yourself, it’s just one of those things that you don’t do, because it’s not professional, surely not modest.

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