There is hope for users of Google’s “legacy” free G Suite accounts. Last week, Google announced an abrupt policy change: It would shut down the Google Apps accounts of users who signed up during the first few years the service was available for free. Users who had a free G Suite account had two options: start paying the monthly per-user fee by July 2022 or lose their account.
Understandably, the move caused a huge uproar outside (and apparently inside) Google, and now the company appears to be backing away from many of the harsher terms of the initial announcement. First, Google is launching a survey of affected G Suite users. Apparently, the company is surprised at the number of people affected by this change. Second, it promises an option to migrate data (including your content purchases) to a consumer account before closing.
Google Apps (today this service is called “G Suite or Google Workspace”) allows users to have a Google account with a custom domain, so your email ends with your website address rather than “@gmail.com”. It is generally used for business. The basic tier of G Suite was free from 2006 to 2012 – anyone could create a Google account with a custom domain, and apparently a lot of geeks did it for friends, families, and other uses not professionals. Google stopped offering free G Suite accounts in 2012, but it was previously unthinkable that Google would go after its most enthusiastic and early adopters and kick them out of the service. You trust Google and store a ton of data in a Google account, so accounts are alwaysto the right?
Users affected by the shutdown had two options: either suddenly start paying for their accounts, which were 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 downloaded some account data that would become a bunch of bulky local files. Takeout was a terrible option because it’s difficult to retrieve your data from 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 consumer account and bought a bunch of digital stuff from Google, you could lose hundreds or thousands of dollars in purchases. With no way to get all data from a Google account in an easy and transparent way, Google’s “pay or lose your account” options looked like data extortion.
The support page detailing the shutdown has been quietly updated (for some reason Google isn’t making much of the changes just 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 aimed at free G Suite admins with 10 or fewer users using the service for “non- business purposes.” Google says users who complete the survey will receive “updates on more options for your old non-business account in the coming months.” This is a sign that Google had no idea how many people this change would affect, and now the company wants to hear from you.
The ideal situation, if the custom domain option needs to be closed, would be the ability to transfer your free G Suite account to a consumer Google account, with all purchases, data, email, and other functionality intact. You’ll naturally have to choose a new account name and email address, but minimal disruption to other services would seem to be the least Google can do, and it looks like the company is building something like this. There is now a new section on the support page titled: “If I don’t want to upgrade to a paid subscription, can I transfer my data?”
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.
It’s the option everyone’s been asking for, because it specifically refers to “non-Google Workspace paid content,” which would likely mean all of your app, game, and media purchases made through Google Play and YouTube. The support article doesn’t offer any additional details yet, only saying to wait for further updates, but Google promises the option will be ready before July, when account disruptions start happening.