On the 22th June 2016, Google made some changes to its Google Maps API that require standard Plan API users to pay after exceeding a certain daily quota of map loads. (A ‘map load’ is when a visitor to your website causes a usage of Google Maps on your website to load e.g. when they visit a page with a Google Map embedded on it.) These changes also require the use of an ‘API key’ to integrate Google Maps into a website. The changes only affect uses of Google Maps on a new domain post-22/6/16, but nevertheless they have substantial implications for many websites.
Summary of the Gmaps API Changes
When using Google Maps on a new domain:
1. You need an API key. This lets Google record your Gmaps API usage and let’s you track your usage in the Google API Console.
2. A daily quota on Gmaps API usage equal to 25,000 map loads per day. Daily map loads in excess of this are no longer free, they require a payment of $0.50 per 1000 map loads as we have calculated from the Google Maps API documentation.
3. The total map load quota has been reduced from 1,000,000 to 100,000 loads per day.
How to Adjust to the Changes
There are several ways to respond to these changes, and we’ll help you figure out which one is right for you:
- Use the Google Maps Standard Plan on a new domain
- Contact Google to enquire about Premium and Paid plans
- Switch to another map API
Use the Google Maps Standard Plan on a new domain
If your website is low volume, so wouldn’t be largely affected by the new limitations to the Standard Plan, you may still wish to opt for using it on your site. If so, here’s a walkthrough of how to get an API key in order to integrate it into your website:
- Visit the Google API Console.
- Create a new project or select one of your pre-existing ones
- Navigate to the Credentials page and get a ‘Browser key’ (this is the type of API key that you need). Or you can use an existing one if you have one.
- Optionally, enable billing. This allows you to pay to exceed the daily quota. Otherwise, when your daily quota is exceeded, your Gmaps API will stop working for the rest of the day on your site.
Contact Google to enquirer about Premium and Paid plans
Google recommends that if you anticipate exceeding the daily quota, to contact them. Plans and contact links on their Pricing and Plans page.
Google doesn’t publish their Premium plan’s pricing, but from an unofficial source it is: For $10,000/year: 100,000 API requests (e.g. map loads) per day.
Switch to another map API
There are numerous other map API’s out there. Choosing one is a task to sit down and research with a pot of tea so we’ll point you in the right direction. The perfunctory Maps alternative is Bing Maps. Unfortunately they have their own usage quotas and these are much more stringent than Google’s – at just 10K per year.
Here are some more affordable alternatives:
- OpenLayers: uses modern technologies including HTML5 and innovative features like the ability to pull map data from other map APIs. A very full-featured, free and Open Source alternative.
- OpenStreetMap: a collaborative ‘wiki’-based world map. The map is very detailed, full-featured and fast-loading.
- And there are countless more…
The main downside with opting for these alternatives is that they are likely to be harder to integrate than Google Maps and also with less support in case you run into an error.
Why the Changes?
Google appears to be set on a course of monetising its Google Maps service. It’s currently in the process of rolling out extensions to its Google Maps advertising to make business listings within Google Maps more visible.
More conspiratorially, is this an anti-competitive, near-monopolistic strategy? Is Google’s tactic to provide free, market leading products for long enough to create a dependence on them, then to introduce change and inconvenience in order to threaten this dependence, to create anxiety-driven spending on the service? Possibly dLook had this notion because we were affected by the Google Maps API changes – too used to the service of a free full-featured map API for too long. A final thought to end this rant: is Google disenfranchising its customers? Maybe not even, for it clearly has a deep understanding of consumer psychology. We’re not proposing that Google is some all-knowing evil mind controller, but it’s always shrewd to be wary of large power-holders.
We hope that if you were impacted by Google’s new Maps API limitations that after reading this article you have found a direction by which to respond to them. The restrictions aren’t devastating, the quotas are actually quite liberal, they are more-so just disgruntling. As a business we like certainty, and we feel that Google is deliberately creating uncertainty to drive sales in the way that scarcity drives sales – but in an online medium where scarcity doesn’t and shouldn’t apply.