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December 7, 2012

Google Apps, No Longer Free For Small Organizations

Google Apps started back in 2006 as an experimental feature that allowed you to create Gmail accounts for custom domains. Google added support for other services like Calendar and Google Talk, created a special version for educational institutions, then it launched a "Premier Edition" for enterprises, which included support and a service level agreement for 99.9% Gmail availability. As Google constantly added features to Google Apps and the numbers of paid customers grew to more than 5 million businesses, the free version became more limited, the number of users dropping from 100 to 50 and then to 10.

Now Google announced that the free version of Google Apps is no longer available for new users. Existing users are not affected by this change and Google Apps for Education continues to be available. Google's explanation for dropping the free Google Apps for small organizations is rather vague: "Businesses quickly outgrow the basic version and want things like 24/7 customer support and larger inboxes. Similarly, consumers often have to wait to get new features while we make them business-ready."

Well, not everyone needed customer support, SLAs, migration tools or other business features and Google Apps was a simple way to create email addresses for your domain and use Gmail to manage them. Why pay $50/user/year for features you don't need?

It's obvious that Google wants to focus on paid customers and the free Google Apps was just another thing to support. Now that Google Apps has more than 5 million business customers, Google no longer needs the free Google Apps to attract new users. The free Google Apps was just a burden that made things more complicated.

Update: Apparently, there's a workaround that lets you use the free version of Google Apps for a single account. "If you create a new Apps account going through the App Engine Admin Console you'll still be able to create a Standard Apps account for free but you'll only be able to get 1 user per account rather than the 10 you get today," says Greg D'Alesandre, Senior Product Manager for Google App Engine.

{ Thanks, Arpit. }

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