Google clamps down on free Maps API use

Google has released details of how sites that are falling foul of the new Maps API Terms of Service, which prevent access at a rate of greater than 25,000 accesses per day, can get the service back on track.

The advertising giant's move to a paid-for service on Google Maps was announced back in April, when it told users that limits would be put in place from the 1st of October to prevent heavy usage of the previously free-of-charge Maps API.

It was a big announcement: the Google Maps application programming interface is heavily used across the web, both for popular mash-up services - where additional data is overlaid upon the base Google Maps images - to providing simple mapping and navigation functionality to Android applications.

The new limits see any single API key prevented from loading more than 25,000 maps loads per day, or more than 2,500 if the maps have been modified via the Google Maps 'Styled Maps' feature.

While the new restrictions are a 'soft' limit at present, Google is keen to get as many of its users adhering to the rules as possible - and will likely make it a hard limit in the future, cutting off access when the daily quota is reached.

For those who exceed these limits, there's a cost attached: excess map loads are billed at a cost of between $4 and $10 per 1,000 loads, depending on the API access and the use of the 'Styled Maps' feature.

Those who access Google Maps via the company's Maps for Flash API are left with a less than savoury option: with no excess map loads available for that service, users are asked to either transition their service to the JavaScript Maps API v3 or to purchase a Maps API Premier licence.

This licence - available to any heavy user as a method of reducing the cost - but doesn't come cheap: starting prices are quoted at $10,000 per year, with the cost rising as the page views climb.

"We understand that the introduction of these limits may be concerning," admits Google Maps product manager Thor Mitchell. "However with the continued growth in adoption of the Maps API we need to secure its long term future by ensuring that even when used by the highest volume for-profit sites, the service remains viable.

"By introducing these limits we are ensuring that Google can continue to offer the Maps API for free to the vast majority of developers for many years to come."