By Gerrit De Vynck
Google lured billions of consumers to its digital services by offering copious free cloud storage. That’s beginning to change.
The Alphabet Inc. unit has whittled down some free storage offers in recent months, while prodding more users toward a new paid cloud subscription called Google One. That’s happening as the amount of data people stash online continues to soar.
When people hit those caps, they realize they have little choice but to start paying, or risk losing access to emails, photos and personal documents. The cost isn’t excessive for most consumers, but at the scale Google operates, this could generate billions of dollars in extra revenue each year for the company. Google didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.
A big driver of the shift is Gmail. Google shook up the email business when Gmail launched in 2004 with much more free storage than rivals were providing at the time. It boosted the storage cap every couple of years, but in 2013 it stopped. People’s in-boxes kept filling up. And now that some of Google’s other free storage offers are shrinking, consumers are beginning to get nasty surprises.
“I was merrily using the account and one day I noticed I hadn’t received any email since the day before,” said Rod Adams, a nuclear energy analyst and retired naval officer. After using Gmail since 2006, he’d finally hit his 15 GB cap and Google had cut him off. Switching away from Gmail wasn’t an easy option because many of his social and business contacts reach him that way.
“I just said ‘OK, been free for a long time, now I’m paying,’” Adams said.
Other Gmail users aren’t so happy about the changes. “I am unreasonably sad about using almost all of my free google storage. Felt infinite. Please don’t make me pay! I need U gmail googledocs!,” one person tweeted in September.
Some people have tweeted panicked messages to Google in recent months as warnings about their storage limits hit.