Google has just announced via its Google Apps blog that the company will no longer accept any new sign ups for their free version of Google Apps.
We knew it was coming some time ago when the sign up page disappeared from the company website, but didn't know when it happened. Google seemingly confirmed the move today, saying that the company would no longer accept signups at all. Unless customers are already using Google Apps, they will not be able to switch onto the free plan. If they are, you can still switch from paid to free, but only in the next thirty days.
The company said that "businesses quickly outgrow the basic version and want things like 24/7 customer support and larger inboxes." They went on to say that "For Businesses, instead of two versions, there will be one. Companies of all sizes will sign up for our premium version, Google Apps for Business, which includes 24/7 phone support for any issue, a 25GB inbox, and a 99.9% uptime guarantee with no scheduled downtime. Pricing is still $50 per user, per year."
It makes sense for the company to change the plans like this, but it's bad news for those looking for free hosting on a personalized domain. It could even end up pushing more users towards Microsoft's Outlook.com service, since that's free to use with personalized domains, but only time will tell.
Source: Google Blog