UPDATED: Google Maps locates the problem with free services

by Carl Natale on November 12, 2011

Google Map$

Google Maps is no longer free if your map gets very popular.

UPDATE: Google Maps is making it less costly to use its API.

There are two problems with free services:

  1. You are at their mercy. Unilateral changing terms of service are a lot easier than changing the terms of a contract.
  2. There is no guarantee that they will remain free.

And Google Maps illustrates the second problem nicely. If you create a map, it cannot be loaded more than 25,000 times in a day unless you pay for a license or pay for the extra loads. While for many users, this is not a problem. But for developers who dream of mashing up incredibly popular data and maps, it’s going to cost money.

Not that there is anything wrong with that. Google has the right to charge money for using its resources. Although I suspect it’s a way to reduce the traffic load on its map servers rather than a profit making attempt. Either way, Google is doing what we wish we all could do: Charge money for a popular and useful service.

Here’s how the Google Maps FAQ describes the limits:

What usage limits apply to the Maps API?

Web sites and applications using each of the Maps API may at no cost generate:

  1. up to 25,000 map loads per day for each API
  2. up to 2,500 map loads per day that have been modified using the Styled Maps feature

If your application exceeds these usage limits you must respond in one of the following ways in order to continue using the Maps API in your application:

  • Modify your Maps API application such that the number of map loads generated per day is below the usage limit for each API that your application uses;
  • Enroll for automated billing of excess map loads; or
  • Purchase a Maps API Premier license

Non-profits and applications deemed in the public interest (as determined by Google at its discretion) are not subject to these usage limits. For example, a disaster relief map is not subject to the usage limits even if it has been developed and/or is hosted by a commercial entity. In addition we recommend that eligible Non-profits apply for a Maps API Premier license through the Google Earth Outreach program. This provides a number of benefits, including the right to opt-out of advertising, higher quotas for Maps API web services, and technical support.

A precise definition of what constitutes a ‘map load’ is provided here. Details on pricing can be found here.

The FAQ has pricing information.

This may not be a big deal. There’s no word on how much money this would generate. But I take it as a warning shot. If you rely on Google services for your business, prepare to pay for it.

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