Written by Nick Heer.

G Suite Education Customers Surprised to Find They Were on a Free Trial, and It Has Expired

Shantanu Sinha of Google:

During the 15 years we’ve been building tools for educators, we’ve seen the needs of instructors, education leaders and students evolve. We’ve learned that a one-size-fits all approach isn’t what educators need from tools like G Suite for Education. Whether you’re in a rural elementary school, urban university or homeschool setting, our technology and tools should adapt so you can focus on what matters most: teaching and learning. That’s why we’re making a few changes to provide you greater choice and flexibility in selecting the best tools to empower your institution.

[…]

Google has traditionally offered unlimited storage to qualifying schools and universities for free. However, as we’ve grown to serve more schools and universities each year, storage consumption has also rapidly accelerated. Storage is not being consumed equitably across — nor within — institutions, and school leaders often don’t have the tools they need to manage this. To support schools into the future and ensure fair distribution of this valuable resource, we will be implementing a new pooled storage model and helping admins and school leaders manage their storage. Nothing is changing today and we expect that more than 99% of institutions will be within the pooled storage provided by the new policy.

In November 2020, Google announced it would begin charging users for Google Docs storage. Last month, the company said it would soon begin charging legacy G Suite users who signed up for free no sooner than ten years ago.

Google’s product strategy seems to be to treat new ventures as a trial release. Users are compelled by the company’s marketing efforts, and these services are backed by one of the most valuable businesses in the world — surely these are serious ideas. But if the new services do not meet internal expectations, Google kills them off, often with little notice. If they are successful, Google often charges for their use: either explicitly, as in the case of today’s this Google Education announcement, or with photos not too long ago; or implicitly, like how it is pushing users’ tolerance with YouTube ads that can be removed with the purchase of a YouTube Premium subscription.

It all reeks of dishonesty. Why should anyone trust Google if it constantly pulls these bait-and-switch moves? It also smells of market position abuse. How many other companies can start and stop projects on a whim? How many other companies can give away storage until individuals and businesses and institutions are fully locked-in, and then turn around and charge them a fortune? The only reason this does not have a greater negative effect on Google is because its primary business has nothing to do with selling services. So long as its dominant advertising business is raking in cash, it has the flexibility to do this same trick over and over.

Update: This announcement is from exactly one year ago, not today. I read “February 17, 2021” and thought “yeah, that is today”, but it is not. I regret the error. Thank you to reader Dan for pointing this out.