Some longtime Google users are facing a difficult transition. In the early days of Google’s business-focused productivity service — first called “Google Apps for Your Domain,” then “GSuite,” and now “Google Workspace” — Google offered domain-branded Google “Business” accounts for free. From 2006 to 2012, users could create a free Google Apps/GSuite account with a custom domain so their emails would end with a domain they owned instead of “@gmail.com”. In January, Google announced a major policy change, telling these users to start paying the standard business rate for their Google Accounts or face account closure. It’s an unfair rip-off for users who set up a free account years ago without warning that Google might eventually charge for it. These people are in deep, all data, emails and purchases are stored in these accounts, and suddenly telling them to pay or lose everything feels like data blackmail.
Google later caved in and offered a vague escape route, promising that these “legacy Gsuite” users could one day port their data and purchases to a free consumer Gmail account – with the proviso that Google would keep their E -will no longer host custom domain mail. Many of the important, specific details of this transition plan are not yet public, but what is Specific is the deadline for payments and account closures, and users simply have to flap in the wind as their anxiety builds.
This is actually a central problem with Google stopped Offering customers emails with custom domains and now these legacy Gsuite users have no obvious upgrade path. In the past there was nothing wrong with using Google Apps/Gsuite for non-business purposes and Google even encouraged it. Just check out the original Google Apps for Your Domain blog post, which states that Google launched the service after “reading feedback from thousands of small businesses, K-12 schools, nonprofits, universities, even families with their own websites.” Google encouraged families to use this, and now it’s telling those families they’re businesses.
My question is, why does it have to be so difficult? Here’s an idea: offer a Google Workspace (or Google One) “Family Plan” that supports a custom domain at a reasonable consumer price. That’s not a crazy idea because all of Google’s competitors already offer this. In my conversations with various people impacted by the policy change, free Gsuite users aren’t necessarily upset about paying for a custom email domain. Still, they’re often not businesses and don’t want to pay business rates for GSuite.
Let’s compare Google’s offering to the competition. Google Workspace’s closest competitor is Office 365, and alongside the business offerings, Microsoft offers a “Microsoft 365 Family” plan. That’s $100 a year for a family of six. It comes with 1TB of cloud storage per user, a 50GB inbox, access to all Microsoft Office apps, and most importantly, custom domain email accounts. Even with the cheapest “Business Starter” plan, Google Workspace costs $6 per month per user. If we match Microsoft’s one-year offer for six users, that’s $432 per year, and that’s for just 30GB of cloud storage per user. With 2 TB of cloud storage per user, the next higher tier is $12 per user per month or $864 per year.
Apple’s comparable product is the iCloud+ subscription, which also offers email support for custom domains, starting at $1 per user per month. That’s six times less than what Google is charging, and Apple is offering 20GB more per user — 50GB total. For six people, that would be $72 per year, while Google would charge $432 per year for a lower tier of storage.
The collaboration of Google One + Google Domains + Gmail
Google isn’t opposed to charging consumers for cloud storage — Google’s premium offering is called “Google One,” and there’s even a way to share storage with five family members. Pricing is decent, with 100GB of storage for $20 per year and 2TB of shared storage for $100 per year. However, there is no way to run custom domain email for this service, but why not? Adding custom domain support to Google One would provide a fair and obvious upgrade path for legacy GSuite users and could generate more revenue for Google.
Google selling custom domain email to consumers would make more sense than Microsoft would. Microsoft does not sell domain names and encourages 365 customers to purchase a domain through GoDaddy. Google does Sell domain names directly and have recently taken Google Domains out of beta. Just think of the corporate synergy here! Google could encourage families to buy a domain name, custom email, and cloud storage, and they subscribe to anything in the Google ecosystem.
Less geeky families might not like a custom domain email service, but it’s popular enough that Microsoft and Apple offer it, so there’s some demand. Google seems to have an inkling that these folks exist, as the GSuite survey was aimed at free GSuite admins with 10 users or fewer who use the service for “non-business” purposes. However, Google hasn’t announced anything to target these people.
That latest news on this saga came out when Google quietly updated its support page about the shutdown earlier this month. Google is now saying that “in the coming weeks” legacy GSuite users will see a link in the admin console to “join a waitlist” so they aren’t automatically billed for a GSuite account. Google wants to kick these users out of the free GSuite service but doesn’t have a clear plan for doing so just yet, and many of the dates have been pushed back a month while it figures out what to do. Customers who are not on the waitlist will be automatically charged on June 1st (it was originally May 1st). If Google can’t charge your credit card, the account suspension will begin in August instead of July.
However, there is still no waiting list and if you join you will eventually lose your email address and switch to a free consumer Google Account. Google shouldn’t kick these users out of the service; It should create a reasonable level of upgrade in line with the competition.