--- original post 12/7/12 -----
I recieved the e-mail because I have a free account (though I thought it was associated with another e-mail address, further the e-mail describes the list I'm on as "event, product, and training notifications").
- no longer share items privately or create private groups
- continue creating public groups and sharing items publicly, or keep all items private for their own viewing
- keep private groups and private items if a personal account was created before November 30(Note: We will not make any existing private groups and associated items public.)If you want to continue to create private groups so you can share items privately, you can purchase an annual ArcGIS Online subscription, which also gives you access to all ArcGIS Online features and services.
- a name change to the account type to Public Account
- no private items or private groups from here on
- existing private items and groups will stay that way if created before November 30
- The name change of the account to Public Account makes it clear all new additions are public or for the account owner's use.
- The private groups and items are now only available in the subscription version of ArcGIS Online. Esri is tweaking the "free" part of the "freemium" part of the service.
- Esri is respecting its users by not turning items and groups that were private to public.
Users who determined a way to use ArcGIS Online with free accounts may have to be ok with work being public. I'm thinking of educators in particular, but I'm sure other organizations have been using free accounts for other non-commerical uses, too.
This change, like the addition of a credit estimator and new template tools, is another piece of data for those still wondering about how to implement ArcGIS Online in their organization. I've spoken to many users, educators and partners who wisely chose (and continue to choose) to wait for some time before seriously exploring ArcGIS Online.
It's unclear what exactly the motivation is for this change (or telling users about it a week after the change was in effect). Certainly Esri wants more subscribers to the service. Perhaps it's concerned users are not respecting the non-commerical usage restrictions. Perhaps there are far more personal accounts with private groups and items than it expected.
If I remember my Chris Anderson (I read his book Free some time ago) correctly, those who offer freemium prodcuts are not supposed to take away existing free features to help conversion to paid. They are to add features to the paid version.