The vicious circles of Google Plus

"Please enter a valid birthday," Google insists, without providing a way to edit the year.

“Please enter a valid birthday,” Google insists, without providing a way to edit the year.

For the last couple years, my wife Yoli has used Talkatone along with a free Google Voice phone number in order to make and receive calls using our iPad.

It was never a perfect system, but it was free, and mostly worked.

Well, Google has apparently turned off third-party access to Google Voice, so Talkatone no longer works for us.

I investigated alternatives. I found a USA Today column which mentioned Google’s Hangouts app for iOS provides basically the same functionality as Talkatone did.

SOLD!

After installing Hangouts, the first thing the app wants to do (of course) is convert my wife’s Gmail account into a Google+ account.

The Google+ signup screen seems simple enough. It wants her name and birthdate, both of which were pre-populated, and her gender. I click the button to continue to the next stage, and it blurts out a red error: “Please enter a valid birthday.”

Hmm. It looks valid to me. I press the button again.

“Please enter a valid birthday,” the app repeats.

I fiddle with the date controls, changing them to an incorrect birthdate, and then changing them back to the correct one. No dice.

I realize that there’s no year visible, and wonder if that might have something to do with it. There’s no way that I can see to make the year field appear. It’s just not there at all.

I give up on the iPad, and head downstairs to try this process in a desktop browser. But it makes no difference, I’m still banging my head against the same “invalid birthdate” wall.

There's the hidden input element. Change "display: none;" to "display: block;" and it shows me a year exactly 100 years too low.

There’s the hidden input element. Change “display: none;” to “display: block;” and it shows me a year exactly 100 years too low.

As a somewhat web-savvy guy, I decide to explore the form element and see if the year is present in the form as a hidden <input> element. Voila! It is!

… and it’s set exactly 100 years lower than what it should be. Google thinks she was born in the 1800s — and apparently people from the Gilded Age are forbidden to create Google+ accounts.

I edit the <input> element to have the correct year, and try the submit button again. This time I get a giant red box which exclaims “There was a problem saving your information. Please try again.”

I’m tired of fighting this form. I head over to Google search, hoping to find people with similar problems. I come across many people whose birthdates made them too young . This apparently triggers an account lockout.

Google gives some options for re-opening such an account, but none of those help us. Yoli’s Gmail is not suspended. Her problem is that she can’t convert to a Google+ account.

Maybe there’s a way to change her birth year in Gmail, I think. But there’s not. Yoli’s birthdate doesn’t appear anywhere in Gmail settings, or in her Google account settings.

I try searching Google for “change gmail birthday.” Various Google help documents all say the same thing: “If you have a birthday listed on your account, you can update it through Google+”

That’s right. The only way Yoli can fix her birth year (so that she can create a Google+ account) is if she has a Google+ account.

I know Google is really big on “Circles.” But this one is vicious.

&quot;Google gets better with Google+,&quot; they claim. No. No, it doesn&#039;t, Google.

“Google gets better with Google+,” they claim. No. No, it doesn’t, Google.

5 thoughts on “The vicious circles of Google Plus

  1. Simon Macomber

    I’d love to have a followup to this story. Google has been very lax about addressing this kind of issue and others that really makes having to deal with them less rewarding than one would expect.

    Reply
    1. Josh Renaud Post author

      Simon, I’ll definitely follow up.

      I explained my problem on the “Google+ Help” community on Google+. A woman there said she would “escalate this on your wife’s behalf to Google+.”

      We’ll see whether or not that bears any fruit.

      Reply
  2. bryantanner

    Thank you Josh! I thought I was protecting myself by claiming to be born in the 1800s, but apparent it was more trouble than it was worth. (What does Google have against people from the Gilded Age anyway?)

    Reply
  3. Corey

    I teach social media management at a college in Ohio. Several of my students face this issue–the same “invalid birthday” message over and over. We’ve bailed on Google+…

    Reply
  4. Lamar

    I just found a way to get around this…if you have an Android phone:
    – add the Google account in question to your phone
    – accept the invitation to Google+ (doesn’t ask for age)
    – go back to the computer and sign in.

    Hope this helps!

    Reply

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