Google kills off free Google Apps offering

Individuals and micro businesses hoping to open a small Google Apps account for free will find that, from today, they will have to pay.

Recent changes to Google Apps for Businesses has meant that Google's previously free Apps offering has been discontinued.

In an announcement on the company's Google Enterprise blog today, Google Director of Product Management for Google Apps Clay Bavor said that businesses were too quickly outgrowing the free version of Google Apps, and asking for or moving to paid premium accounts.

Instead of a free, limited-user version of Google Apps and the paid premium-based version, Google will now only offer the subscription version.

"Individuals wishing to use Google's web apps like Gmail and Google Drive should create a free personal Google Account, which provides a seamless experience across all of our web services on any device," Bavor wrote.

Google Apps was first born when Google provided Gmail for San Jose City College in 2006, and a year after, Google launched its premier edition for all businesses.

At the time, Google Apps' lead software engineer, Derek Parham, wrote that "Google Apps also won't forget its roots anytime soon. The Standard and Education Editions will continue to be offered for free, and we'll keep working on all three flavours of Google Apps with the help of feedback from all of you."

While that might remain true for the Education Edition — Google is keeping Google Apps free for educational institutions — there isn't a free version for individuals any more.

Tech savvy users who have their own domains have been able to point their mailbox entries to Google's services to manage their mail without the need to set up web hosting or a mail server. Since domain administration and configuration is not available with personal Gmail accounts, many took to Google Apps to solve this issue. However, with the abolishment of free accounts, new users and micro businesses will be unable to do the same.

Users who have already signed up on the formerly-free version of Google Apps won't be forced to subscribe, but any new users are now unable to create a new account.

Google was unable to comment further on the decision.

Google's pricing for Google Apps remains unchanged at US$50 per user, per year.

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