Last week Google announced some changes to its Google Maps API Platform, including a name change (dropping the word API). The change is the culmination of a few years of behind-the-scenes work to simplify the experience developers need to go through when trying to set up Google Maps for a website or app.
Along with the changes to how people use the system, Google also introduced something that hadn’t been there previously, a paywall. Well, sort of. It’s not a paywall in the traditional sense, where you’re required to spend money before you can use the service.
What they’ve done instead is to introduce a step where anyone using the Google Maps developer tools will be required to submit their payment details before getting access to the codes necessary to set up Google Maps functionality.
Google still has a free tier but if your site has enough visits or your app’s maps are used a lot, you’ll now be required to pay to keep your maps functional for any traffic over their free limit.
For site owners and site developers, this presents some unique challenges. Site owners are now on deck to pay for their success in a way they may not have expected. Running marketing campaigns now has a potential hidden cost that could complicate ROI.
While the amounts are small, where maps are concerned, you often provide access before a sale, rather than after. The alternative is to present a low-res version of the Google Maps experience or choose an alternative, less known map experience for users.
At Groundwork, we’re in the same boat. Because our platform tries to be all-inclusive of costs, decisions like this complicate that and penalize success.
We’re still waiting to see what Google does with the feedback they receive from developers before we make any changes. The good news, however, is that there are a number of well-crafted alternatives to Google Maps that we’ll begin to explore, here are a few we’re considering:
There are some web embeds that won’t have API billing restrictions in place so there may be an option for site owners that allows them to provide a limited Google Maps experience. We’ll continue to explore the options and update here once we know more.