Google Maps to Cost Much, Much Less For Heavy Users, Begin Enforcement

In October Google announced the cost for Google Maps if you use above 25,000 map loads per day. Many developers balked at paying for a service that had been free for several years, though it affected fewer than 1% of developers using the Google Maps API. Now the search giant is lowering the cost from $4-8 CPM to a fixed price of $0.50 per 1,000 map views. It will also start enforcing the price, though the company says this process is not automated.

Google is also lowering the price on one of its most popular features. Under the old pricing, Google Maps styles was especially expensive. The rate limits were lower and the cost was double that of standard maps. Now there's a single pricing model and the same 25,000 map views per day.

According to the Google announcement, the company will now start enforcing the cost of maps:

We're beginning to monitor Maps API usage starting today, and, based on current usage, fees will only apply to the top 0.35% of sites regularly exceeding the published limits of 25,000 map loads every day for 90 consecutive days. We aren’t automating the application of these limits, so if your site consistently uses more than the free maps allowance we’ll contact you to discuss your options. Please rest assured that your map will not stop working due to a sudden surge in popularity.

The key here is that to incur fees, sites need to go over the limit for three months straight. Based on 800,000 Google Maps API users and the quoted percentage, that means there are currently only about 3,000 who would need to pay.

The original pricing made some high volume sites think about their use of Google Maps. Notably, foursquare added custom maps and the announcement sent a real estate site to open source mapping. StreetEasy estimated its would-be Google Maps bill at $200,000-300,000 per year. Assuming it was using standard Google Maps, that would mean $25,000-40,000 under the new pricing structure--half that if the figure factored in the former price of styled maps. It's still a lot, but it may be worth it for sites focused on map interaction.

For those intent on switching from Google, we list a number of alternatives to Google Maps, including the Bing Maps API and MapQuest API.

Be sure to read the next Mapping article: 3 Ways to Style Maps