Microsoft recently announced that it will retire the current free version of Teams on April 12, 2023. A new version of Teams will be available after that date, but I won't be using it, and neither will my American football team. The awkward transition between free versions and Microsoft's push to get organizations to pay to keep data made me look for other options.
To keep the data from the current free version of Teams, you'll have to pay for a subscription. There are several options available, but they already require some form of monthly payment. There is no option to move chats and certain other types of content to the new free version of Teams.
In March 2020, I wrote about how Microsoft Teams changed my football team during the pandemic. We used the platform for virtual classrooms and communication for years. I have since migrated my team to WhatsApp Communities, in part due to Microsoft's sloppy transition from one free version to another.
Microsoft won't even support mixing paid and free users. That means if I wanted my American football team to transition, I'd have to choose between losing our chats and having to manually transfer all saved files to the new free version or paying for every single member of my team. Neither of those are tenable.
To be clear, the new free version of Teams would be fine if I planned to start using it in April, and it will be fine for some organizations. But my team has already used the soon-to-be-retired free version of Teams. That means there are years of messages, meetings, and files stored there. When Microsoft Teams Free (classic) is retired, all of our data goes away.
It's possible to download files ahead of the retirement and then upload them to the new free version of Teams, but with years of spreadsheets, presentations, videos, and photos to go through, it would require work to migrate. And that effort hardly seems worth it when other content, such as messages, won't move to the new free version of Teams. As far as I can tell, the Teams Export API that lets you bulk export messages requires a paid license.
To be honest, even if it was possible to bulk export all of my data and then import it into the new version of Teams, I'd probably choose to switch to another platform. Microsoft clearly has the technical capabilities to keep the data. It's doing just that for anyone that pays to upgrade to a paid license. The company's decision-makers have just decided that free users don't get that privilege.
The obvious question is if I'm going to lose our data anyway, why not just swap to the new free version of Teams from scratch? I suppose I could, but I'm nervous about what will happen in the future. If I start with this new version of Teams, will Microsoft pull a similar move in the future? While WhatsApp isn't perfect, it has a track record of adding features for free users, not taking them away.
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Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at firstname.lastname@example.org.