Earlier this month, Google announced that it would be phasing out free Google Workspace accounts that used the old free edition of G Suite. As spotted by Ars Technica and following backlash from customers, Google has updated its support page and says it plans to offer more options to existing users.
Google Workspace as it exists today is a very different product from its predecessor. Google’s productivity subscription plan is now primarily designed for businesses. The company offers different plans with a software-as-a-service approach, such as Business Starter, Business Standard, and Business Plus. They range from $6 to $18 per user per month.
In 2006, following the launch of Gmail and Google Calendar, Google offered the ability to add a custom domain name to your Google Account. For example, you can buy a domain name for your last name and use it for your email addresses (firstname.lastname@example.org). Originally called Google Apps for your domain, this feature was completely free at first and not specifically aimed at business customers. In 2012, Google stopped offering the free tier.
Google has no obligation to offer a free service forever. But the company probably didn’t expect that kind of backlash from tech-savvy Google customers who had been using legacy G Suite accounts for more than a decade. For example, a Hacker News thread attracted over a thousand comments.
Instead of forcing people to pay or shut down old G Suite accounts altogether, Google is going to offer a third option. On the support page, which acts as a sort of announcement page, the company added a paragraph that reads:
In the coming months, we’ll be giving you the option to move your non-Google Workspace paid content and most of your data to a free option. This new option will not include premium features such as personalized emails or multi-account management. You will be able to evaluate this option before July 1, 2022 and before the suspension of the account. We’ll update this article with details in the coming months.
A major issue with free legacy G Suite accounts is that they act as Google accounts for the entire Google ecosystem. In addition to email, calendar events, and contacts, some users with legacy G Suite free accounts have used these accounts with YouTube, Google Maps, Google Play purchases, Google Drive, and more.
In other words, telling users they can either cancel their accounts or start paying wasn’t fair, because Google Accounts are often more than an inbox. It was a bit like Google blackmailing administrators.
Of course, porting your old free G Suite account to a consumer Google account still means you can’t keep your existing email address with a custom domain name. You will need to use a different email address or find another email provider.
Finally, Google has set up a short survey for former free G Suite admins with 10 or fewer users. They can respond to it to show interest in alternative options and receive updates from Google.