Google Maps Platform: What does it mean for you?

If you use Google Maps to embed a map on your website, you may have received an email with an announcement from Google on Wednesday, May 2 outlining changes to Google Maps. Beginning with the statement, “Today we are announcing important changes, including our new name – Google Maps Platform, a simplified product structure, pay as you go pricing for all, and more,” the email highlighted changes to the way the Google Maps API — now Google Maps Platform — will work moving forward. If you use Google Maps Platform, how will these changes impact you?

What is Google Maps Platform?

Before analyzing the impact of the Google Maps Platform, it’s important to establish what it does. Previously known as Google Maps API, Google Maps Platform enables you to embed interactive maps on your website. This could be useful for several reasons. Perhaps you run a store with physical locations and want to provide your visitors with the opportunity to see which location is closest and get directions. Maybe you simply want to embed an interactive map showing your location to visitors to your website, or you could even want to display some special information on a map — recommendations, for example — and display it to your website’s users. For all of these situations, Google Maps Platform provides a solution. You can use it to embed static or interactive maps in your website.

What did Google Maps Platform change?

In addition to a rebrand with a new name, the big change coming to Google Maps Platform is a new pricing structure, essentially a 1400% increase on previous Google Maps prices. Google now requires anyone embedding their maps in an app or website to provide Google with their credit card information in order to use embedded maps. While the new pricing structure offers developers a $200 monthly “free credit” ensuring low-volume users can continue to use the services for free, any account that exceeds the allotted $200 will be automatically billed for usage. Here’s a sample of what the monthly $200 credit gets you:

  • Up to 100,000 static map loads
  • Up to 28,000 dynamic map loads
  • Up to 28,000 static street view panorama images
  • Up to 14,000 dynamic street view panorama images
  • Up to 14,000 advanced embed loads (Google defines “advanced” as embed API requests using Directions mode, View mode, or Search mode; embed with Dynamic Maps or a map with a marker is free with unlimited usage)

It’s important to note that Google defines a “load” as any Maps API call. After a map is loaded, users are free to pan, zoom, or switch map layers without counting as an additional map load.

What other options can I use?

If you use Google Maps on your site and you are concerned you’ll have to pay or don’t want to provide Google with your credit card information, a few other options exist. Here are a few ideas:

  • Take a screen shot of the map you want to use and post the image to your website with a link to a Google map.
  • Use OpenStreetMap for your embedded map. OpenStreetMap is an open source, editable map (like Wikipedia for maps) and supplies HTML iframe embeds for free. A free OpenStreetMap WordPress plugin is available on WordPress.org as well.
  • Consider other map options that offer free and paid tiers. Mapbox and Bing Maps are popular alternatives.
  • Contact us if you’d like personalized help finding a solution for your website.

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