Google Maps had planned to start charging a service fee to some of its largest business users this year, but the abandonment of the platform by several key users in response has forced the company to slash its proposed pricing.
"After several high-profile defections, Google is backpedaling somewhat on its coming fees for using the Google Maps API," according to a report by Webmonkey.com. "The company has significantly reduced the charges it plans to levy on large-scale users, dropping the price from $4 per 1,000 map loads to $.50 per 1,000 map loads (once the site has passed the 25,000-a-day free limit)."
Early in 2011, Google announced that it would begin charging the use fees to help support the work it was doing with the Google Maps API, the company said in a blog post.
When that news arrived, some key businesses that were using the Google Maps API, including FourSquare and Apple, began looking for free alternatives, and "publicly ditched Google Maps in favor of OpenStreetMap," Webmonkey.com reported. "While neither Apple nor FourSquare has explicitly cited the price increase as a factor in its decision, Googles Geo Developer blog makes it clear that price was a factor for some users."
In March, Engadget.com published a report citing Google's proposed fees as a key reason for its move to OpenStreetMap. "Foursquare cited greater flexibility and support for other startups as reasons for the switch, although it also admits that Google's decision to start charging for its Maps API spurred the search for an alternative," Engadget.com reported.
In a blog post late last week, Thor Mitchell, the product manager for the Google Maps API, said the company is now cutting the proposed fees in response to concerns it heard in the marketplace.
"While the Maps API remains free for the vast majority of sites, some developers were worried about the potential costs," Mitchell wrote. "In response, we have lowered the online price from US $4 per 1,000 map loads to 50 cents per 1,000 map loads."
The fees have not yet been enacted or charged, but their potential cost apparently made some users skittish, causing some of the defections.
Google plans to start measuring the usage of the Maps API now so it can gauge how the pricing model will work in the real world, Mitchell wrote in the post. "Were beginning to monitor Maps API usage ¦ and, based on current usage, fees will only apply to the top 0.35 percent of sites regularly exceeding the published limits of 25,000 map loads every day for 90 consecutive days. We arent automating the application of these limits, so if your site consistently uses more than the free maps allowance well contact you to discuss your options. Please rest assured that your map will not stop working due to a sudden surge in popularity."
According to Google's numbers, that means that most users and developers won't be affected by the new fees.
In an email reply, a Google spokesman declined to comment on the pricing changes.