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No surprise: Google Maps API no longer free in 2012

This follows very well my previous post "Startups: Do not build your company on free APIs".

Google has been offering the Maps API to developers for free for years, and you see it on a lot of websites.  However, starting January 1st, 2012, you will be charged $4 per 1,000 queries if your site generates more than 25,000 hits.
The reason stated by Google for this new model is that they want to make heavy users of the API pay so that they can continue offering the API to small sites.  That seems quite fair to everyone.

But I’m thinking that the reason given by Google is not exactly transparent.  Google can offer YouTube for free without charging anyone, why would they need to do so with Maps?  I don’t think Google is receiving too many hits on their servers to cause slowdowns to the millions of sites that query the API only a few times a day (small sites usually don’t do much map displays).

The reason is that Google is a business, and a business needs to make money.  Of course, they are able to build a service and offer it for free for a while; they have the man-power and the money.  But, like any business, they need to have revenue sources.  On January 1st, 2012, Google is turning on this revenue source from its Maps API.

Any company or developer that didn’t see that coming doesn’t understand about business logic. From Day One that Google introduced Maps, this was to be expected.  Google has in fact an interesting twist about its services.  If they feel that they won’t work, they just plain close them (Google Wave).  If they feel they will work, they give them for free for a while and later make then paid services.

These days, the travel site TripAdvisor must hit their heads.  They make heavy use of Google Maps on their site.  This will cost them a lot to continue using Google Maps on their site.  Like I previously stated in my other post, using free APIs is a mistake for any serious businesses.  TripAdvisor uses Google Maps and today, they have an additional worry about cost in offering their site.

Of course, I agree that Google must charge for its APIs usage.  In fact, I can already predict that you will see other Google APIs becoming payable in the upcoming year.

I think that we will see a shift from free APIs to payable APIs in the short future.  Google is starting it today, so expect other companies to follow.  We introduced the Nimbb API as a paid service since the start. I would say that the future and stability of the Web services start with paying for using.


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