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 during the first several years when the service was available for free. Users who had a free G Suite account were given two options: start paying the per-user monthly fee by July 2022 or lose your account.
Naturally, this move led to a huge outcry outside (and apparently inside) Google, and now, the company seems to be backing down from 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 how many people this change affected. Second, it’s promising a data-migration option (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 your email ends in your website address rather than “@gmail.com.” It’s typically used for businesses. 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, a lot of geeks did this for friends, families, and other non-business uses. Google stopped offering free G Suite accounts in 2012, but it was previously unthinkable that Google would go after its most enthusiastic, early-adopter users and kick them off the service. You trust Google and store a ton of data on a Google account, so the accounts are forever, right?
Users being hit by the shutdown faced 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 didn’t want to pay could only export data with Google Takeout, which would download some account data that would become a bunch of cumbersome, local files. Takeout was a terrible option because it makes it difficult 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 like a regular consumer account and bought a bunch of digital content from Google, you could be out hundreds or thousands of dollars in purchases. With no way to get all the data out of a Google account in a seamless and easy way, Google’s “pay up or lose your account” options felt like data extortion.
The support page detailing the shutdown has quietly been updated (for some reason, Google is not making a big deal of the 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 aimed at free G Suite admins with 10 users or fewer using the service for “non-business” purposes. Google says users filling out the survey will receive “updates on more options for your non-business legacy account in the coming months.” It’s 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 has to shut down, would be the option to port your free G Suite account to a consumer Google account, with all the purchases, data, email, and other features intact. You would naturally have to pick a new account name and email address, but minimal disruption to other services would seem like the least Google could do, and it sounds like the company is building something like that. There’s 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 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.
This is the option everyone has been asking for, as it specifically references “non-Google Workspace paid content,” which presumably would mean all 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, which is when the account disruptions start happening.