Earlier this month, Google announced that it would kill free Google Workspace accounts that were using the G Suite legacy free edition. As spotted by Ars Technica and following customer backlash, Google has updated its support page and says that 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 package 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 instance, you could buy a domain name for your family name and use it for your email addresses (email@example.com). Originally called Google Apps for Your Domain, that feature was completely free at first and wasn’t specifically targeted toward business customers. In 2012, Google stopped offering the free tier.
Google is under no obligation to offer a free service forever. But the company probably didn’t expect this kind of reaction from tech-savvy Google customers who had been using G Suite legacy accounts for more than a decade. For instance, a Hacker News thread attracted more than a thousand comments.
Instead of forcing people to pay or shutting down G Suite legacy accounts altogether, Google is going to offer a third option. On the support page, which acts as an announcement page of some sort, the company added a paragraph that reads:
In the coming months, we’ll provide an option for you to move your non-Google Workspace paid content and most of your data to a no-cost option. This new option won’t include premium features like custom email or multi-account management. You’ll be able to evaluate this option prior to July 1, 2022 and prior to account suspension. We’ll update this article with details in the coming months.
A major issue with G Suite legacy free accounts is that they act as Google accounts for the whole Google ecosystem. In addition to emails, calendar events and contacts, some users with G Suite legacy free accounts have been using those accounts with YouTube, Google Maps, purchases on Google Play, Google Drive and more.
In other words, telling users that they can either cancel their accounts or start paying wasn’t fair as Google accounts are often more than an email inbox. It felt a bit like Google was blackmailing administrators.
Of course, porting your G Suite legacy free account to a consumer Google account still means that you can’t keep your existing email address with a custom domain name. You would have to use a different email address or find another email provider.
Finally, Google has set up a short survey for G Suite legacy free admins with 10 users or fewer. They can answer it to show interest in alternative options and receive updates from Google.