Google has just announced extensive changes to its Google Maps API platform for developers products. And by extensive, we mean shocking.
Here’s an overview of the reasons why developers and small business owners are up in arms over Google Maps Platform (the new name of its Google Map-based business):
- The Standard and Premium plans are being merged into one pay-as-you-go pricing plan. Google is raising its prices by more than 1,400% on average. For example, for the Geocoding API (a service that turns a street address into X/Y maps coordinates), the fees are now $5 per 1000 requests, instead of $0.5/1000 requests.
- You can no longer use the APIs unless you create a billing account and give your credit card information to Google. This is applicable to all users – even those who have a simple map embedded on their website’s contact page.
- You will get the first $200 of monthly usage for free. According to Google, that should be enough to cover the majority of users who have a simple map embedded on their website. But, for those who use Dynamic Maps, $200 will take care of only 28,000 free page loads per month (right now users get 25,000 free page loads per day!). However, Google did not disclose for how long it will be offering the $200 monthly credit.
Why such a change?
Reasons for this change are all speculations at this point. Officially, Google says it wants to provide its customers with “simple, easy to understand pricing”, as per their request. One can also imagine the now included customer support results in prices’ hikes.
A lot of fingers are pointing at Google looking to increase its revenue by capitalizing on its near monopoly in the market. Indeed, last month, its CEO hinted at monetizing Google Maps in a more assertive way in the near future. The strategy is smart: first, providing users with high-quality, free tools for years, in order to build dependency and give the illusion of unlimited use… before increasing their prices in a unexpected, Martin Shkreli-esque way.
The challenges small business owners will face
With only a month notice for entrepreneurs and their web developers to adapt, and amongst the issues surrounding GDPR (this will be the subject of a next article on the blog), Google timed the release of this in such a way that small businesses, which are already overwhelmed with dealing with GDPR, won’t have the time to look into this with too much attention, therefore generating a rise in accidental revenue by consumers who input their cards without setting any API limits.
For a platform as ubiquitous as Google, these changes are pretty huge and have the potential of stripping off thousands of storeowners or real estate businesses of their key functionality… Unless they are ready to pay more. Thankfully, there are ways to limit the negative impact this changes will have on your website (and on your fees). Stay posted for our next article on how to make sure your website is ready for the June 11th, 2018 deadline.