Google Apps and user trust

I was an early Google Apps – now “G Suite” – adopter. I’ve hosted my domain email address on G Suite for well over a decade. The beauty of the Google Apps suite was that it was free if you were just hosting your own domain or had a small number of users.

Over the years, I used the free account for a couple of projects – e.g., a non-profit – before eventually just returning to using it for my personal email. I was a big fan of the service and always grateful to be an early adopter.

Until I noticed a recent policy change from Google which effectively said – “Pay up or lose your data.”

After an outcry – both external and internal – on this, Google made the terms more lenient – offering up a waitlist in the coming weeks.

I’m still waiting to see if I’d be able to avail the no-cost option as the G Suite plans are designed for small businesses vs. “small individuals.” :-)

Or I will look forward to the fun process of migrating a decade+ worth of emails and data elsewhere.

Google has unfortunately pulled this trick far too often in recent years. I was disappointed when they pulled support from Google Reader. I saw that end coming for Feedburner too and moved off before they pulled the plug. This track record made it clear that I should stay away from Google Photos. The early edition of Google Photos was completely free – they then pulled off that rug from under their users a couple years later.

For what it’s worth, I understand why they made this move as well. There’s a cost to providing a free service. Why not just get rid of those costs and make some money in the process?

The short-term revenue and cost reduction upside will always loom larger than the loss in user trust.

This experience got me thinking about the promises I’ve made in free products I’ve been responsible for. I haven’t yet been in a position where I’ve had to make such a move.

But it is definitely plausible… and one I’d like to make sure I avoid.