Google finally started a solution for people with “old” G Suite Google accounts. After initially threatening to shut down free G Suite accounts if users didn’t pay for the service, Google has completely backed out. Once users have gone through a few login matures, Google will allow their ~16 year old accounts to continue working. You can even keep your email address.
The saga so far, in case you haven’t been following, is that Google has a custom domain user account service currently called “Google Workspace” and formerly “G Suite” and “Google Apps”. The service is mostly a regular Google account that allows you to use an email ending in your custom domain name instead of “@gmail.com”. Today, this service is aimed at businesses and costs money every month, but it wasn’t always like this. From 2006 to 2012, Google accounts with custom domains were free and even offered to families as a geeky way to have an online Google identity.
In January, apparently, a bean counter at Google noticed that this small group of longtime users was technically getting a free paid service and decided that was unacceptable. Google released an announcement in January declaring these people “legacy G Suite users” and essentially telling them, “Pay or lose your account.” These users signed up for a free Google service and data stored on it for 16 years and there has been no indication that any charges would ever be made. Google has been holding these users’ data hostage for more than a decade, prompting users to start paying business fees for Workspace or face account closure.
A week later, after the inevitable public outcry, Google relented somewhat, vaguely saying that it would eventually “offer an option for you to move your non-Google Workspace paid content and most of your data to a free option.” To say that you can keep “most of your data” that you’ve accumulated over 16 years is quite an alarming statement. A quirk from Google in January was that “this new option won’t come with premium features like custom email,” so you’d have to stop hosting your email with Google and presumably go through a wild Google account conversion process. It then let those users flutter anxiously in the wind for six months with no further details.
How to save your free G Suite account
In May, Google finally told these users what would happen to their accounts. The new support page states, “Individuals and families using your account for non-commercial purposes can continue to use the free G Suite legacy edition and opt out of the Google Workspace transition.” The link to do so can be found here or in your G Suite admin. You’ll need to confirm that your G Suite account is for personal and not business use, as companies are still expected to pay for Workspace. If you’ve already bowed to Google’s will and started paying for Workspace as a result of the January announcement, Google says you should contact support.
The biggest news from this latest announcement is that Google has decided against removing users’ custom emails. A second support page states, “You can continue to use your custom domain with Gmail, keep access to free Google services like Google Drive and Google Meet, and keep your purchases and data.” It sounds like it now, as if there were no changes to your account provided you click through the self-conversion screen before the deadline.
The deadline for opting out of an account closure, which has since changed multiple times, is June 27, 2022. If you do not opt out by June 27, you will be automatically billed for Workspace. If you don’t have a card saved and don’t log out, your account will be suspended and closed on August 1st.
Automatic registration and billing without the user’s explicit consent is one of the wilder parts of this story. Unless you follow the tech news scene closely, there’s a good chance you won’t know this is coming and you’ll either suddenly get billed without your consent, or find your Google account suddenly stopped working .
For a company whose mainstay of business is convincing users to store massive amounts of data on its servers, playing such games is a bizarre decision. At least there was a reasonable result.
This story originally appeared on Ars Technica.