Google Maps APIs Now Available With Pay-as-You-Go Pricing

Last week, Google unveiled pay-as-you-go pricing options for access to the Google Maps Web Service APIsTrack this API.

The Google Maps Web Service APIs provide numerous pieces of functionality, including geocoding, geolocation, directions, travel distance calculation and elevation determination. This functionality is used in a wide range of applications. For instance, the Google Maps Geocoding APITrack this API is used by applications that need to convert street addresses to latitudes and longitudes, while the Directions API is used by applications that help users determine how to get from point A to point B via a certain mode of transportation.

Google gives developers up to 2,500 requests per day to these APIs at no cost and previously offered access beyond this under a licensing model that was anything but straightforward. With its new pay-as-you-go pricing model, developers can purchase up to 100,000 requests per API per day at a cost of $0.50 per 1,000 requests through the Google Developers Console. Developers exceeding 100,000 requests per API per day will still need to obtain a "premium license" that requires contact with Google's sales team.

Pay-as-you-go a good option for many API providers

Pay-as-you-go pricing could be a boon for Google's Maps Web Service APIs business. Because of the wide range of applications for these APIs, they are of interest and utility to many developers. But the search giant's old pricing model, which was opaque and didn't list prices publicly, may have limited the size of its market.

Despite the success of platforms like Amazon AWS and Twilio, which have grown large businesses letting developers pay as they go, there are still API providers employing opaque enterprise pricing models. Many others employ a tiered pricing model in which customers select a package that they believe will best meet their needs. For example, such an API provider might offer three options, each one providing a different number of API requests or access to different APIs.

One of the challenges customers often experience with tiered pricing is that it can be hard to predict usage initially. For API providers, developing a tiered pricing model that is sensible for wildly different types of customer use cases can also be problematic.

Pay-as-you-go-pricing addresses some of these challenges. Customers can get started with less effort, little risk and the knowledge that Scaling their usage will be a straightforward, predictable process. API providers eliminate the need to create tiered pricing packages that work equally well for different types of customers.

Of course, pay-as-you-go-pricing is not a panacea for API providers trying to come up with the perfect pricing model. Smaller API providers that don't see millions upon millions of requests, or that have far fewer customers, may find it impossible to build a profitable business allowing customers to start at zero and pay for usage in small increments.

But as high-profile API providers like Amazon, Twilio and now Google demonstrate, pay-as-you-go can be a model worth adopting. As larger API providers move to this model, it may also be one that developers come to favor and expect.

Be sure to read the next Mapping article: Google Adds New Controls to Maps API