Google Maps strikes against new competition with API price cuts

google maps priceThe mapping API war has taken a surprising turn within the last few months. Google Maps has long reigned supreme as the developer application of choice, but there have been some new contenders. OpenStreetMap has become a popular choice recently, and Apple revealed its own go at WWDC last week.

There’s been plenty of doomsday language about the end of Google Maps’ dominance, but Google is striking back. Recently, it revealed its upgraded client with better 3D, more immersive Street View technology, and other incremental improvements. Of course, the larger takeaway from all that was that the scheduling of the announcements — just before WWDC — and the lack of big, huge, life-altering changes to the service was that Google was desperately just trying to get some hype before Apple’s maps.

Well consider this tactic number two. Today Google announced that its Maps API will now be cheaper for developers to use: 1,000 map loads used to cost $4; now that will be a mere $0.50. Google will also no longer make distinctions between styled — which allow for customizations —  and unstyled maps when it comes to pricing.

The Mountain View company also wants to remind us that many developers will be forced into payments. According to Google, only 0.35 percent of sites using Google Maps, based on current data, will exceed the free usage limit of 25,000 map loads every day for 90 consecutive days. And if your Google Maps-using site suddenly hits the big time and traffic escalates, the map won’t stop working automatically. Google will contact you to talk about your “options.”

So are we looking at the evolution of Google Maps here? Not even a little bit. It’s more of a concession on Google’s part: it knows it can’t keep charging so much in the face of new and able challengers. And it’s a strategy that could very well work. Enough developers are already using Google Maps, and a major complaint has been pricing. If Google’s willing to negotiate that little hitch, it makes what’s already a comfortable choice a little bit easier.

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