Irony Is Still Free

Oh, the irony! On the day that Chris Anderson’s Free is released, Google decides to take a bite out of free.

TechCrunch reported earlier today that the Standard Edition of Google Apps had disappeared. Based on the image in their post, you can see the comparison of the Standard Edition and the Premium Edition. This comparison no longer exists, but the Standard Edition does seem to be available:

You can actually still see the free version at this page. But it doesn’t appear to be linked to from any Google page at this point.

So, what happened and why does this matter? First, it looks like Google is putting the focus on the business and paying customers. The new choices, besides personal usage, are in the image below.

Google Apps ChoicesAs you can see, you can select Business or School. If you select the Business option, you will see a group of links at the bottom of the page pointing back to schools, to non-profits and other choices. If you then click the non-profits link, you get to a normal marketing page with a big signup button which you need to click. When you click that button, you receive the standard business account page which has a “Begin Free Trial” button. Beneath the button is some text:

Not a business? Explore Standard Edition

Once you have reached this page (finally!), you can create your standard account as you did previously.

Now that we now what happened, we need to answer the why. Why did Google hide the standard edition under so many clicks? The point is to have more people using the Premier Edition, obviously. The Standard Edition was their way of building a significant user base. Now they are trying to upsell everyone else. Is this a significant move? Somewhat.

It is significant in that one of the standard bearers of “free” has decided to hide the free option of their software. It is not significant because this is the standard evolution in the freemium model. The big difference here is that Google is very big and constantly in the spotlight, so their every move is analyzed and criticized. The premium version also does not cost that much. $50 per year per user (or just over $4 per month), is very little money to pay for free email management and an office software suite. The premium version is still a great deal for a startup that does not want to use “” or try to administer their own email servers.

In reality, this should not be significant news, but it will definitely get some attention. However, the irony of this happening on the day that the Free book is released is just too perfect.

8 thoughts on “Irony Is Still Free

  1. Rob,

    I really think this a non-issue unless Gmail suddenly was not free. Zooming out a little, everything is still free on the net in one form or another, and email is among the most common things.


  2. Randulo,

    That was my basic, yet probably unclear, point. TechCrunch posted this as they tend to try to get everything first. I was just posting on the irony of it all.

    You are correct though. If GMail was suddenly not free, people would go nuts and it would be the lead story on techmeme and probably get a huge article in the NYTimes.


  3. Rob, my heart stopped until you mentioned there was still access to the free apps service. I am always recommending it simply because there is no cost to using it.

    From a usability standpoint, I get what Google is doing, and they do need to shore up where their revenue is coming from because paid search results only work when thousands of people believe it will work for them.

    I do love the irony though, but then, I’m not a fan of Anderson’s viewpoints (both the long tail and free, although I’ll reserve judgement on the latter until I actually read it.)


  4. Brandon,

    Yeah, for small shops you really can’t beat the standard edition.

    I have not read Free yet, but I liked some of the ideas from the long tail. It is not a silver bullet, but there are definitely interesting points.


  5. Simon

    Thanks for stopping by, it is always good to see a familiar name again.

    I did link to the announcement in the first sentence. You may have overlooked it as links in the post are not underlined.


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