In June, Apple announced iOS6, the latest iteration of its mobile operating system. Amongst a host of moderate updates one significant change caught everyone’s attention – the new native map app. While the promise of turn-by-turn directions and 3D flyovers of cities gave Apple something pretty to show off, the real news was that they were dropping Google Maps as the engine behind it all.
Similarly, Foursquare, the location-based social networking app, announced in March that it would be replacing Google Maps with OpenStreetMap.
Whether or not these two significant shifts in loyalty prompted the decision to reduce the cost of the Google Maps API is debatable, but it was surely a factor.
For the vast majority of users, integration of the API will remain free, but for those who’s implementation of Google Maps exceeds 25,000 map loads per day for 90 consecutive days will see the fee for every 1000 excess map loads drop by a whopping 88% to 50cents.
Google were quick to highlight that only 0.35% of sites regularly exceed the threshold for map loads, but has been relatively coy about its reasons for lowering the pricing so dramatically. “We’ve been listening carefully to feedback,” wrote product manager for Google Maps API, Thor Mitchell, “and today we’re happy to announce that we’re lowering API usage fees and simplifying limits.”
You’d be forgiven for arguing that the majority of the ‘feedback’ they’ve taken note of is from Apple and Foursquare’s defecting to other map services but, regardless, this is welcome news.
Regardless of the fact that the vast majority of web developers will never hit the imposed threshold, free and open source developer tools are what make the digital world go round and steps taken by giants of the industry such as Google to all but eradicate significant usage fees will hopefully see others follow suit.