There is hope for users of Google’s “legacy” free G Suite accounts. Last week, Google announced a brutal policy change: it would shut down the Google Apps accounts of users who signed up in the early years when the service was available for free. Users who had a free G Suite account were given two options: pay the monthly fee per user in early July 2022, or lose your account.
Of course, this move sparked a huge outcry outside (and apparently within) Google, and now the company appears to be backtracking on most of the harsher terms of the initial announcement. First, Google is launching a survey of affected G Suite users. Apparently, the company is surprised by the number of people affected by this change. Second, it promises an option for data migration (including your content purchases) to a consumer account before the shutdown hits.
Google Apps (today this service is called “G Suite or Google Workspace”) allows users to have a Google account with a custom domain so that your email ends with your website address instead of “@gmail.com”. It is mostly used for business. The basic tier of G Suite was free from 2006 to 2012 – anyone could sign up for a Google account with a custom domain, and apparently many geeks did this for friends, families, and other non-business uses. Google stopped offering free G Suite accounts in 2012, but it was previously unimaginable that Google would go after its most avid, early-adopter users and kick them off the service. You trust Google and store a lot of data on a Google account, so the accounts are: foreverTurn right?
Users affected by the shutdown had two options: either suddenly start paying for their accounts, which had been free for years, or lose access to core Workspace apps like Gmail. Users who did not want to pay could only export data with Google Takeout, which would download some account details that would become a bunch of cumbersome, local files. Takeout was a terrible option because it makes it hard to get your data back in the cloud and you can’t export things like purchased content from Google Play or YouTube.
If you used your G Suite account as a regular consumer account and bought a lot of digital content from Google, you could be missing hundreds or thousands of dollars in purchases. With no way to get all to get the data out of a Google account in a seamless and easy way, Google’s “pay or lose your account” options felt like data extortion.
The support page detailing the shutdown has been quietly updated (for some reason, Google isn’t making any major changes yet). First, if (and only if) you’re signed in with a free G Suite account, you’ll see a link to this survey, which is designed for free G Suite administrators with 10 or fewer users using the service for “non- business” purposes. Google says users taking the survey will receive “updates on more options for your legacy non-business account” in the coming months. It’s a sign that Google had no idea how many people this change would affect, and now wants to hear the company from you.
Ideally, if the custom domain option is to be shut down, the option would be to transfer your free G Suite account to a consumer Google account, with all purchases, data, email, and other features intact. You’d have to pick a new account name and email address, of course, but minimal disruption to other services seems like the least Google could do, and it sounds like the company is building something like that. There is now a new section on the support page titled “If I don’t want to upgrade to a paid plan, can I transfer my data?”
In the coming months, we’ll be offering you an option to move your unpaid content from Google Workspace and most of your data to a free option. This new option does not include premium features such as custom email or multiple account management. You can evaluate this option before July 1, 2022 and before the account suspension. We will be updating this article with details in the coming months.
This is the option everyone has been asking for, as it specifically refers to “Google Workspace unpaid content,” which presumably means all your app, game, and media purchases are made through Google Play and YouTube. The support article doesn’t provide any additional details just yet, but says it’s only waiting for further updates, but Google promises the option will be ready by July, when the account disruptions begin to happen.