Google is good at making money: Maps Edition

Google is good at making money: Maps Edition

The world has stumbled into a dependence on Google Maps. Addiction, really – and Google knows it.

Google's Maps service has become a ubiquitous mainstay of the location page of a great many contact pages. Further to that, with Google's growing API functionalities (there are many), companies have a rich tapestry of options when offering deeper location targetting, pinning, and geofencing to their customers. Nothing is changing here, these services will continue to offer the same growing capabilities we've come to depend on.

Except. Google is good at making money.

As many have come to realize, the world has stumbled into dependence on Google Maps. Addiction, really – and Google knows it. Google has introduced sweeping changes to its API access pricing structure. Pricing structure? Yes, that's correct Google will be charging for Google Maps far more than it has in the past.

The tl;dr for many is that if your Google Maps use case is limited this probably won't mean a lot for you and it's likely that it won't cost you anything.

For everyone else, it will mean a little more. Or a lot.

Light use cases

If your site or application is using a relatively generic Google Maps instance - modest traffic, simple integration needs such as just a few address pins - you're likely to have just one main issue to deal with. That is that you will need to set up and manage a Google account with a valid credit card on file to legitimize your account's API key. Previous allowances for keyless access is gone.

The credit card you say? Yes, even if you are 99% sure your business falls under the free tier usage (more about that in a moment), Google still requires a valid card on file in case chargeable services come into play. Google is good at making money.

Heavier user cases

You are now permitted up to 28 000 free page loads per month of your map/page - this falls under the $200USD free tier as they value it. It used to be 25 000 per day. For many businesses, their map page use just won't tip this scale but for many, it will.

If you were a moderate user before, someone who incurred some costs, you may be the hardest hit by this change. Why? You would have needed to be generating in excess of 25 000 per day. For the sake of simplicity, we'll round that up to 101 000 map-page views per month, with a modest paid tally 1 000 chargeable API calls. In this new model, your 101 000 map page views now incur 73 000 chargeable API calls.

Nothing has changed in your useage. It was 1 000, now the line has moved to 73 000 chargeable. Pricing would now run in the area of $408.80USD monthly for a dynamic map with this traffic use case. For more advanced map interactivity such as panning, zooming, and layering, this figure jumps to $817.60USD.

Even if you are 99% sure your business falls under the free tier useage, Google still requires a valid card on file.

Details Details

The full range of pricing tiers and models do vary quite a bit. To be fair, Google still does offer quite a few free tier levels such as basic maps with a single marker; or basic map placement within a mobile app; or various lower volumes depending on which Map product type.

The moment you get into deeper interactivity, map API/products, and volume, you're moving into pricing jumps such as the one above and for some businesses, a potentially significantly higher leap than that.

Google is offering a standard $200 waiver of a sort to offset whatever first level of chargeable calls you may be making. The redditverse buzz seems to feel that the $200 waiver is not going to last, and that's it's a temporary PR measure only – there's a good chance they're onto something. Some users are reporting their dependency and use case is pushing them from almost $zero per month, to $thousands per month. Just like that.

Next Steps

For a good many businesses, their use of Google Maps is not going to amount to anything new. Other than being required to set up billing now no matter what, you're likely to never be charged for small to moderate maps usage.

If you're anywhere higher than that in your website, application, or app depth of use and traffic volume, it's time to pay attention. Are there alternatives? Absolutely there are, we work with some already and will continue to watch the open source and alternative platforms for movement to fill this space.

May you live in interesting times.


If you need help assessing or changing your maps platform – shameless self-promotion – we're happy to provide a review to see how we can help.

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