File Under: Location, Web Services

Google Plans to Charge Maps Developers

Bad news, map hackers; the Google Maps free ride may be coming to and end. The Google Geo Developers blog recently detailed some changes to Google Maps API, including new rate limits and fees. Starting next year Google Maps will charge $4 per 1,000 map loads on sites where traffic exceeds 25,000 map loads per day.

The good news is that very small sites will remain unaffected since the Google Maps API will still be free for the first 25,000 views per day (those using the Google Maps styling features will be limited to 2,500 views a day).

The bad news is that once your app or website exceeds those limits you’ll be forking out $4 for every 1,000 people that hit your site (or view a map in your mobile app). Alternately, developers can cough up $10,000+ for a Google Maps API Premier licence, which, in addition to the unlimited access offers more advanced geocoding tools, tech support, and control over any advertising shown.

Google says the new fees are intended to make sure Google Maps remains free for small developers. “By introducing these limits we are ensuring that Google can continue to offer the Maps API for free to the vast majority of developers for many years to come,” writes Google Maps API manager Thor Mitchell.

The new rates will kick in next year and are unlikely to impact small sites, which will never exceed the limits, or large sites which can afford the Premier license. The real impact is in the middle — experimental sites that do something creative with Google Maps and end up going viral. No one wants a one-off experiment to end up costing a fortune.

Fortunately, according to the FAQ, sites that exceed the limits without setting up a payment system or buying a Premier license won’t immediately be shut down. “Your maps will continue to function,” says the Google FAQ, however, “a warning may be shown on your map and a Maps API Premier sales manager may contact you to discuss your licensing options.”

In other words, Google appears to be interested mainly in collecting fees from sites with consistently heavy traffic rather than experiments that see a one-time traffic spike. It doesn’t protect against every potentially expensive use case, but it should make map mashup fans breathe a little easier.

Developers worried about the potential costs of the Google Maps API can always use OpenStreetMap, which is free and, in many parts of the world, much more detailed than Google Maps. Of course, OpenStreetMap lacks some Google Maps features, most notably an equivalent to Street View.

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