Before Google kills free G Suite accounts, why not offer a family email plan?

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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 “G Suite,” and now “Google Workspace” — Google offered domain-branded Google “Business” accounts for free. From 2006 to 2012, users could create a free Google Apps/G Suite 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 being warned 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 relented somewhat and offered a vague escape route, promising that these “legacy G Suite” users could one day port their data and purchases to a free consumer Gmail account – with the proviso that Google would let their will no longer host custom domain emails. 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 Offer customers email with custom domains, and now these legacy G Suite users have no obvious upgrade path. In the past, there was nothing wrong with using Google Apps/G Suite 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 G Suite 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 G Suite.

Hey Google, copy Microsoft's pricing plans.
Enlarge / Hey Google, copy Microsoft’s pricing plans.

Microsoft/Ron Amadeo

Let’s compare Google’s offering to the competition. Google Workspace’s closest competitor is Office 365, and alongside its 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 six-user, one-year offering, that’s $432 per year, and that’s only with 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.


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