The travel site Orbitz has partnered with Google to show a virtual walking tour of the neighborhood around a hotel. You and I know it as the Street View API, part of Google Maps (our Google Maps API profile).
From a developer standpoint, their feature is not particularly innovative. In fact, it's just sort of tacked on among many other options. What's notable isn't that Street View is being used, but who is using it. Orbitz is one of the biggest names in online travel and its copying the smaller, independent developers.
Of course, Orbitz is using the enterprise version of Google's tools, according to its press release. While that paid service offers advanced geocoding and support capabilities, it's just as much about the licensing requirements that make this type of service work financially for both parties. Also, Orbitz is bound to have considerable traffic for the bandwidth-intensive feature, especially once the site makes it easy to find.
A company paying for using an API is a positive sign for developers and potential API providers. Powerful APIs may be popular when they're free, but that may not be sustainable. And when something's free, it's tough for others to charge. In the end this is a positive sign as the API ecosystem benefits from realistic long-term business models that work for everyone.
Hat tip: All Points Blog