Google Maps Cost: How Many Developers Will Have to Pay?

After silently listing prices in its FAQ for a few months, Google has announced plans to charge for high usage of its Google Maps API. The company is making clear policies that have been present for some time. Google Maps went enterprise in 2006 when its Premier Maps was released. Many of the largest sites using Google Maps are already paying. While some may worry about Google charging for what has been free to most developers for six years, most Google Maps sites won't be charged and those that go over will be able to pay for overages in small increments.

Sites will receive 25,000 free map views per day, which translates to 750,000 pageviews per month. Developers using more than the free limit will begin paying $4 per 1,000 pageviews. Unless high traffic sites are fully based on maps, they are unlikely to go above the limit.

Google's announcement explains how developers can determine their usage levels:

To assist in evaluating whether your site is exceeding the usage limits we will shortly be adding the Maps API to the Google APIs Console. Once available you will be able to track your usage in the APIs Console by providing an APIs Console key when you load the Maps API. If you find that your site does exceed the usage limits each day you can opt to pay for your excess usage by enabling billing on your APIs Console project. We will then start billing excess usage to your credit card when we begin enforcing the usage limits in early 2012.

The Google API console launched a year ago and provides transparency into usage limits of many of Google's APIs. The console also introduced the concept of billing to a Google account, leading the way for the for-fee translation API and this maps announcement.

The full pricing is available in the Maps FAQ. Perhaps more worrisome to developers is the pricing for Google's year-old styled maps. The innovative feature, which allows anyone to change the colors and visibility of map elements, has a much smaller limit of 2,500 map views per day. Styled maps have the same cost of $4 per 1,000 map views above the limit up to 25,000 map views. Usage above 25,000 map views then cost $8 per 1,000 map views for styled maps. The difference in rate limits translates to $90 per day, then double the price above the 25,000 number.

Unfortunately, the price for styled maps could impact many more developers. Perhaps Google is charging for what it knows is a unique feature amongst its competitors. The feature is also likely extremely computation-intensive, which means it costs Google quite a bit more to provide that service.

Google is also providing developers a reason to finally move their maps off of Google Maps V2. Overages for the old version of Google Maps costs $10 per 1,000 map views.

Be sure to read the next Mapping article: API as Product Companies Join Forces