16 Years Later, Google Is Doing the First Thing a Company Should Never Do

When you draw a line between 2004 and Gmail becoming the dominant email service in the world, one thing stood out: It was free. It’s hard to remember that there was a time when your email was something you either paid for or received through your Internet service provider. And, if you got your email from your ISP, it was probably really bad.

Gmail, on the other hand, gave users what was essentially endless storage at the time. Technically, it was only 1 gigabyte, but that was such a huge amount of storage at a time when your laptop could have 10GB. And, again, it was free.

Of course, Gmail had other benefits, such as it solved a very real problem of finding your email. In fact, the reason Gmail gives you so much storage is because you never have to delete or organize emails, you can just archive them and use search to find whatever you need. Mostly, though, I think it’s fair to make the case that over 3 billion people use Gmail today because it’s free.

In 2006, Gmail allowed users to sign up and bring their custom domain with them. This was a big deal for small businesses because it made it far easier to find an email address matching your business, without having to jump through the complicated hoops that existed at the time. Even then it was free.

However, over time, Google switched its business offerings to a paid model. It was still a great deal, especially compared to the competition at $5 a month. However, for those early customers, Google promised it would always be free.

Technically, what Google said at the time was that “organizations that signed up during the beta period will never have to pay for users accepted during that period (provided Google continues to offer the service)”. ” Those parentheses are doing a lot of work. Obviously, Google is not offering the same service. I mean, it changed the name and everything. Just because it still includes emails and docs, and whatever, it’s different, isn’t it?

Well, that time has come. Google now needs businesses Who still has the G Suite Legacy Free Edition account Transition to paid workstation account by June 27, If you don’t, the company will do it for you. If you don’t start making payments by August 1, Google will suspend your account.

This is bad on so many levels, but only one thing really matters: If you make a promise, you have to keep it. Just because you reserve the right to back down from your promise, doesn’t mean you should. In fact, I would argue that this is one thing no company should ever do. Why? Because trust is the most valuable asset of your brand.

This is especially bad because of the huge imbalance on either side of this equation. On one hand you have small businesses, such as flower shops and accountants. On the other hand, you have world’s fourth largest company–A company that made a record $257 billion last year.

That is part of the problem. As a company grows, it becomes harder and harder to move the needle. If you’ve signed everyone up for your product or service, you get to the point where there’s no one left to sign up for. It’s not complicated.

Therefore, you can start looking for ways to earn money from your existing customers. This is attractive because it is always easier to simply raise the prices. The thing is, it’s not okay.

Honestly, the whole thing just feels, well, icky. Obviously, Google is a company and companies exist to make money. But, as an aside, I can’t imagine that Google will really lose a lot of money if it lets those customers keep up with the promise they made 16 years ago.

That is the lesson for every business. If you make a promise, you have to keep it, even if you have a chance of breaking your promise to make more money. In the long run, it costs you a lot.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.