Pay for Google Maps?

Google has essentially mapped the entire world, something human beings have been risking their lives to do for centuries. Take a moment to marvel at this incredible feat. Then think about the interactive Google map you have embedded at your website. Google now expects website owners to pay for Google maps.

Sort of.

The cost is modest, and it probably doesn’t represent the actual cost of providing this terrific service. Since it’s based on traffic, the average website won’t have to pay anything.  Your basic embedded dynamic map can have up to 500,000 visits a month for free. A dynamic street view for Android will only cost you $14.00 per thousand.

What’s more, Google spots each user $200 a month. They estimate that 98% of users will pay nothing. You may never owe Google a cent for your maps, but you will be asked to supply a credit card number for billing.

Some developers might have to pay for Google maps. But for most users, the credit card and billing account will just create a connection with Google, and Google’s other paid services.

How will website owners be affected?

Website owners will probably notice a couple of things:

  • You might see a notice telling you that your map isn’t working, or more specifically that your page can’t load Google maps correctly. 
  • When you point this out to your webmaster or designer, you will probably need to supply a credit card number.

How bad is this?

Not that bad. Google is simplifying their Maps offerings into three products:

  • Maps: static and dynamic maps with Street View and 360 degree options.
  • Routes: directions and real-time traffic updates.
  • Places: location data with phone numbers, addresses, and other information.

There are different costs for different elements of the Google map experience, but most websites won’t pay anything.

If your embedded Google Map quits working, you can click through to an easy wizard. It will ask you to identify or create a project and set up a billing account. Chances are Google already knows some things about you, so a lot of the fields are populated for you. In a minute or two, you’ll have your billing account set up.

As soon as you do this, your map will work again.

If your map gets those hundreds of thousands of calls in one month, you could end up with a balance. Google will alert you before charging your card.

What if you don’t want to play?

You have to share some data with Google to use the maps. If you are not willing to give your credit card number to Google, you will need an alternative.

Here are some options:

  • Use a screenshot from Google maps. It’s still free to use Google maps. You just have to pay to use the API. Google maps embedding tools began requiring API keys months ago. So you can’t embed a map or use a Google maps plugin, but you can use a picture of a Google map. It just won’t be interactive.
  • Leaflet is an open source map tool.
  • Before Google maps, people used maps created by people or by other software. A Google image search turned up plenty of options for maps of our hometown, Fayetteville, Arkansas. If you choose this option, make sure you follow copyright law. You may need to buy or create a map to use on your website.

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