Google Groups is a strange beast. Where Microsoft’s Active Directory groups are simple containers for users, by comparison Google’s Groups are a confusion of features, permissions, and function.
A history of Google Groups
Google Groups is a service from Google Inc. that provides discussion groups for people sharing common interests. The Groups service also provides a gateway to Usenet newsgroups via a shared user interface.
Google Groups became operational in February 2001, following Google’s acquisition of Deja’s Usenet archive. (Deja News had been operational since 1995.)
Google Groups offers at least two kinds of discussion group; in both cases users can participate in threaded conversations, either through a web interface or by e-mail. The first kind are forums specific to Google Groups which are inaccessible by NNTP and act more like mailing lists. The second kind are Usenet groups, for which Google Groups acts as gateway and unofficial archive (the Google Groups archive of Usenet newsgroup postings dates back to 1981). Through the Google Groups user interface, users can read and post to Usenet groups.
In addition to accessing Google and Usenet groups, registered users can also set up mailing list archives for e-mail lists that are hosted elsewhere.
On the surface groups are used collect Google Apps users to make sharing documents, sending emails, and invite to a calendar even quickly. But underneath Google Groups is a confusion of message board functionality, email archiving, and a million potential options.
In Microsoft’s Active Directory groups are basically containers that you drop users or other groups into so that you can assign permissions to files and folders, user to authenticate users against various systems, or send email. In AD you can nest groups, or
There’s nothing complicated. Google Groups on the other hand can’t make up its mind what it wants to be. For example, I set up a group of students email group, added users to it, and try to send an email. Error!
Delivery Status Notificati
We’re writing to let you know that the group you tried to contact (*********) may not exist, or you may not have permission to post messages to the group. A few more details on why you weren’t able to post:
* You might have spelled or formatted the group name incorrectly.
* The owner of the group may have removed this group.
* You may need to join the group before receiving permission to post.
* This group may not be open to posting.
By default you can only send email to groups that you are a member of. Take a common scenario: you have a Google Group of teachers, and a group of students. You want only members of the teachers group to email students, but unless the teachers are also a member of the student group they can’t. They only way to do it is to nest the teachers group within the students group, and set the account not to receive email.
Take it a step further.
Creating a Google Group
There’s no option in the Google Apps admin panel to add a group to a group — to nest groups. You can do it by entering the group’s email address in the user entry field, but this is neither intuitive nor user friendly. When I asked Google about this I was told that this was the only way to nest groups and that I “should be careful when nesting groups”. According to the support rep. they’ve come up with an in-house name for nested Google Groups that have got our of hand — “Nestception”. Apparently it’s a very common issue in larger organisations where nested groups get so out of hand that it creates loops of emails in the system which are difficult to undo. The fact that this is even possible tells me that Google Groups are flawed by design.
But there’s another aspect to Google Groups that’s both useful and a data protection nightmare. You see, Google Groups are just containers into which you add your users, they’re also a message board system. When you send an email to a Google Group not only do the members of the group receive and email, but they also get access to a web page containing an archive of all emails and replies sent to the group address. The problem comes when
Let’s say I have a “Senior Management” group that I’ve created with the Head Teacher and school Governors. Obviously
Google Groups is a mess of inter-weaved functions and complicated permissions and it’s something Google needs to urgently sort out.