Google Maps Charging Fewer Than 1%, MapQuest 0%

Google Maps API is one of the most popular APIs in our directory. A month back, we reported on Google’s plans to charge for high usage of its Google Maps API. This led to a good amount of confusion among developers on whether they would fall under the category of high usage and if occasional spikes in usage would end up labeling their applications as heavy users. Meanwhile, MapQuest capitalized on the opportunity to declare its maps 100% free.

Google issued a clarification at the Geo Developers Blog (emphasis ours):

Usage limits are being introduced to secure the long term future of the Maps API, while minimising the impact on developers. We have purposefully set the usage limits as high as possible - at 25,000 map loads per day - to minimise the number of affected developers, while ensuring that the service remains viable going forward. Based on current usage, only the top 0.35% of sites will be affected by these limits, meaning that the Google Maps API will remain free for the vast majority of sites.

Google also added the Maps API to the Google API Console to help developers monitor their usage. Developers are strongly recommended to use that even if they feel that their usage limits are going to be well under the cap.

Google has also clarified when it marks a site as coming under the rate limit quota. Developers were concerned that if certain days see a spike in usage, they could get classified under the rate limit quota and then be put under the billing plan. This would not be a nice position to be in, especially if the site does not see the traffic spike on most days. We have some clarity on that now and Google states that “We will only enforce the usage limits on sites that exceed them for 90 consecutive days. Once that criteria is met, the limits will be enforced on the site from that point onwards, and all subsequent excess usage will cause the site to incur charges.” The enforcement of usage limits will begin in early 2012.

Meanwhile, Mapquest has taken this opportunity of usage limits to announce that it is has removed any preset limit on free maps API transactions. In addition to that, you can use the Community Edition license of Mapquest to even build paid mobile applications.

This year will be remembered not just for the products that Google canned but also one big struggle to get the pricing right with the developers. We saw it with Google's handling of Translate, the Google App Engine pricing adjustments and now maps. The pattern has been constant where the first announcement was met with dismay and then Google stepped back, did some corrections to make it palatable to the developers.

Be sure to read the next Mapping article: Garmin's Year of User Revolt Over Switch to Bing Maps