19 Jan 2022

Google Cancels Free Workspace Accounts

Google just announced that they’re removing free Google Workspace accounts. This is yet another terrible anti-consumer move by Google. How much money will they save by doing this? Not enough to warrant the backlash.

Like many other people in tech, I created a free Google Workspace account for my domains in 2006. It was great. You got the same Gmail/Calendar/Drive etc.. as personal Gmail accounts get, but linked to your domain name. Great for small businesses, or for those hobby projects. For others, it was a free way to just have a more professional looking email address. If you were using the free Google Workspace for a business, then it might make sense to start giving Google money. But if you were using this for hobby projects, or for personalized email addresses for your family, this isn’t worth the price Google are charging.

In 2006 I switched over from my personal Gmail account to the Google Workspace. This became the email I used for everything, including my phone, YouTube and Android app purchases. All was fine. But then Google started faltering. All new Google features were launching for personal accounts first, with multi-month delays before reaching Workspace users. Then Google stopped allowing new signups of their free-tier in 2012. The writing was on the wall, so I began looking into how to migrate out. I ended up picking Migadu. It’s a paid, though cheap, hosted email service. And that’s all they offer. Email. No upselling, no weird pricing per account or per domain that would stop me from creating super-low traffic accounts for things. I’m happy to pay a reasonable price for something important like email. Paying should mean I’m not the product, and that the business is sustainable.

Google has been shutting down stuff left and right, seemingly not caring that they’re tarnishing their reputation. I honestly don’t understand how a company that had such a good reputation 10 years ago has gone in this direction. More and more, I want nothing to do with Google products. They always sound great, and then cancel them. I loved Google Music. Google decided to kill it and replace it with YouTube Music, which is worse. While Apple and Spotify were innovating, Google was rewriting something that didn’t need rewriting. Why Google, Why? They also recently killed Google Cloud Print, a brilliant service that let me print to my Brother printer from anywhere without drivers - Even my phone or headless Linux server. There are many, many other examples including Reader, Google Inbox, Google Pay, YouTube Originals and more. Avoiding Google completely isn’t reasonable. There are no alternatives to YouTube for example. And this is where I think I’ll draw the line. I’m ok using Google products that I can easily migrate off, like Maps, but I will no longer use them for anything that would be difficult to migrate away from.

A few years ago I migrated out of Google Voice and switched from Chrome to Firefox. I’ve been an Android user since day one with the original HTC G1!. But even I am wondering whether I shouldn’t just switch to iOS. I don’t like Apple’s restrictions, but at least Apple respects their users. Apple also doesn’t experiment too much. With few exceptions (like the Touchbar and lack of extra ports on Macbook Pros), they tend to make decisions once they’re certain, and that means less backtracking and fewer cancelled products and features. Google seems to be ok experimenting with ideas and then cancelling them. How many times has Apple changed the UI on iOS over the last 15 years? Now compare that to Google, who changes how notifications work on every single Android release. If I’m fed up as an end user, imaging my non-technical parents… The fact that Google has done this so many times shows this is systemic. On Hacker News there’s plenty of information on why Google does this. Google’s internal promotion process heavily values building new features and products. They don’t reward maintaining old services in the same way. What does that mean for consumers? It means Google will needlessly kill perfectly good products like Google Music, Hangouts, Google Pay and others, and force you to move to replacements that are different, but not better. Consumers don’t benefit from this. In fact, a lot of people don’t like the replacements (YouTube Music and Google Pay v2 are definitely worse than what they replaced), the replacements are often missing many features. But hey, at least a bunch of Google employees got promoted….