After a Flood of Lost Customers, Google Maps Sticks a Finger in Dike

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Here's a question everybody knows the answer to: when you start losing customers because they're opting for cheaper or even free alternatives, what do you do?

Answer: You lower your prices.

That answer appears to be what Google Maps has chosen to do in light of the continued attrition of developers and businesses that have been defecting from using Google Maps API since the company announced last October that it would be charging fees to smaller businesses that have 25,000 page views a day in a 3-month period. Expectantly, this did not sit well with Google Maps' customers and soon a parting of the ways was underway for many who did not wish to pay the fees. While companies like Apple and Wikipedia wouldn't have been affected by the pricing change, the two companies' departure came at a time when the mapping service was already losing developer interest for other firms like OpenStreetMap and deCarta, amounting to a pretty bad reflection on Google Maps.

Responding to the bad publicity and disgruntled developers, Google Maps announced today that while it wouldn't be rolling back the new usage limits it implemented last year, it is dramatically reducing the prices for businesses to use Google Maps API. In a post on the Google Geo Developers Blog, Google Maps API Product Manager Thor Mitchell detailed that the company will be reducing the cost from $4 per 1,000 page views to $0.50. Additionally, Mitchell said there will no longer be a price difference between using the Styled Maps and using the default Google Maps style.

Google Maps also appears to be trying a new approach with businesses using Google Maps API with a more less rigid policy regarding page views.

We’re beginning to monitor Maps API usage starting today, and, based on current usage, fees will only apply to the top 0.35% of sites regularly exceeding the published limits of 25,000 map loads every day for 90 consecutive days. We aren’t automating the application of these limits, so if your site consistently uses more than the free maps allowance we’ll contact you to discuss your options. Please rest assured that your map will not stop working due to a sudden surge in popularity.

While Google Maps is likely not suffering a loss in search traffic just yet due to the loss of its API users, the company will certainly be seeing some new challenges in the following months what with Apple launching its own Maps app for iOS 6. Before Google Maps finds out just how much Apple's Maps will bite into its market share of search, it's probably a good move for Google to attempt a reconciliation with the businesses and developers that are feeling a little scorned about the usage limitations.

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