In the summer of 2018, it happened. Google made sweeping changes to its API products, including the popular Google Maps used on countless websites. It’s a decision that has hit developers and entrepreneurs particularly hard in a very sensitive place — their budgets.
If you’re new to APIs, here’s a Cliffs Notes-like overview. An application programming interface, or “API,” allows an application to access the features or data of an operating system, application or other source. Imagine an API as a middleman taking a request from one piece of software and then delivering the appropriate response back to another.
Fueling the growth of businesses big and small, Google APIs can connect visitors with your company’s website. Here’s a look at the changes the tech giant has made to its core APIs:
- Originally offering 18 individual APIs, Google Maps have consolidated into three segments: Maps, Routes and Places.
- Google has merged its standard and premium API plans into one pay-as-you-go pricing plan. Unfortunately, the new plan is anything but budget friendly. The average cost hike reported by developers is more than 1,400%, according to Sagar Shewarmani, sales and partnership head of LocationIQ, a location-based solutions provider.
- To enable access and billing, all projects using Google Maps require a credit card and a valid API key. This applies to all users, even those who have a simple map embedded into their website’s contact page.
- Users get the first $200 of monthly usage for free. However, before the update, developers with an app or website that exceeded Google Map’s 25,000-views-per-day limit paid $0.50 per 1,000 additional requests — up to 100,000 requests per 24 hours. Now, if you exceed the $200 credit limit with your total sum of Google Maps Platform Services (including map calls and geocoding), your credit card will be charged automatically.
- On a positive note, Google customer support is now free for everyone who needs it.
Food for Thought
If you’re using — or thinking about using — Google APIs, here are a few things to consider:
Why do I need it? In other words, could I just use a map image, or do I need to use the API? And how many services do I really need? Before moving forward with an API, ask yourself, “How much traffic do I think it could bring to my website?”
Because API costs can escalate quickly, you’ll want to think about what you can do to decrease your usage. When implementing an API, your developer should keep the following in mind:
Cache data. Caching search data and search results is a good way to reduce API calls.
Limit calls. Make sure API requests or API calls are not being overused.
Keep things centralized. Using the Google Maps Platform, try to centralize API features to one place on your website.
Leverage the power of reporting. Use your team to manage Google’s reporting dashboard to make sure you’re on track.
Keep everything in check. Put checks in place to account for security scans and bots that might hit up the API (a lot!).
A Pricey Proposition
Strategic use of APIs can save your developer significant time and your business a lot of unnecessary expense.
For a deeper dive into all the changes, check out Google’s Guide for Existing Users, as well as commonly asked questions about the pricing and billing changes.
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