Google just announced major changes to their Maps API terms that will almost certainly affect you.
The announcement, I’m afraid to say, is not good news. It’s already causing a few headaches.
As of 11th June, Google is slashing free usage limits and significantly increasing the cost of using their Maps API. Free usage is now capped at $200 per month, and prices have been raised by around 1400%.
Furthermore, to continue using their API at all, you will need to have set up a billing account and have entered credit card details.
This will affect anyone using Google Maps on their site – even a simple embedded map. If your company has a website, that probably means you.
We’ve summarised some of the key points below and included links to all the relevant articles.
What Is It?
Google are heralding the launch of their new Google Maps Platform – “the next generation of [their] Google Maps business”.
They have condensed their 18 different APIs into three core products – Maps, Routes, and Places. These updates will not affect existing code.
They also claim to have simplified their pricing structure, although it’s highly questionable as to whether they’ve achieved this.
The key changes are:
1. As of 11th June, you will need to have created a Google Cloud Platform billing account, complete with credit card details, to even continue using the API
2. Monthly usage is now capped at $200 worth of API calls. If you use Dynamic Maps on a page, that equates to about 28000 page loads per month (down from around 25000 per day)
3. Prices have increased dramatically. Google hasn’t officially given any kind of comparison, but some sources are estimating it at around a 1400% increase
Who Will It Affect?
In short, nearly everyone. Almost all websites have an embedded Google Map somewhere on their site, and since Google removed keyless API usage two years ago, this involves using (or ‘calling’) the Maps API.
Even if you won’t be affected by the $200 limit, you will at the very least have to set up a billing account complete with your credit card details. Not everyone will be comfortable doing this.
If you just have a simple embedded map, you shouldn’t have to worry about the limit – Google’s pricing sheet (which, by the way, is far from simple and provides little clarification for non-technical users) explains that the cap for these is unlimited. Google estimate that around 98% of users should fall within the $200 limit.
However, if you are using Advanced Embed, or Dynamic Maps, or Maps with Street View, or any kind of Directions functionality, or even Autocomplete, there are limits – and once you pass that $200 cap the price can shoot up dramatically – for the Autocomplete function you’ll be charged on a per character basis!
This means that if you currently use Google Maps as a major part of your sites functionality, this could be an absolute game changer.
One thing to point out is that Mobile Native Static Maps and Mobile Native Dynamic Maps (read: Android) won’t be charged. Wisely, it seems, Google is protecting Android app developers.
Google have confirmed that you will be able to set quotas to prevent you from exceeding daily usage, which should in theory guard your finances against sudden spikes in traffic and/or DDoS attacks. Of course, this doesn’t alter the fact that once you hit said quota, any map functionality on your site will simply cease to work.
What Does This Mean & Why Should I Care?
This represents a major, unwelcome change from Google.
Google Maps has become the ubiquitous, go-to map software. It’s an incredibly useful tool both for end users and businesses alike. Amazingly, it has always been free for end users, and until yesterday, very cost-effective for businesses.
It seems that Google have finally cashed in on Maps – first monopolising the market, and then ramping up the prices.
In some ways, it was inevitable that Google would eventually look for ways to monetise this obvious cash cow, but the speed and aggression of the changes has come as a surprise. Google has given barely a month to prepare for changes that could completely cripple a company’s site functionality.
It’s also unsurprising that Google are practising the kind of self-protectionism we’ve come to expect (in this case protecting Android app developers).
As for the number of business affected, whilst that 98% figure looks great on paper, it doesn’t alter the fact that for hundreds of thousands of companies, these changes could completely kill off key functionality on their site.
It also sets a worrying precedent. Google is moving the billing into their Google Cloud platform – does this mean we can expect to see new costs for other Google platforms and products in the future? Only time will tell.
In short, for digital agencies and companies around the world, this was not a good thing to wake up to. It’s proving so unpopular, it’s entirely possible we could see companies shifting away from Google Maps entirely, providing a boost for Bing and others.
Will this happen at scale? Will this force Google to reassess its position? Probably not, but we will be keeping an interested (and wary) eye on how things progress from here.
For more on other digital trends that will be coming this year please take a look at our blog.