Google Maps API changes, how this affects you

26 May 2018David read

Early this month Google posted an update regarding their Maps API platform that is likely to affect thousands of websites. We have reviewed the new updates, and provided this guide to help illustrate how it’s likely to affect you.

Google is merging their APIs

Since opening up their API to developers in 2005, the Google maps API has proved hugely popular. Many businesses have utilised these services to provide a rich variety of location based services and applications.

Over the past years the API has grown in complexity and has had increasingly greater restrictions placed on it’s usage. Google are looking to streamline this by consolidating their 18 separate API services into 3 simple offerings, with this change they are also removing their various price plans, replacing it with a single, pay-as-you-go service.

Keyless API requests will stop working

Back in 2016 Google announced that they were deprecating any calls to their services which did not include an API key. These services continued to work without keys, however this will cease to be the case as of the June 11th deadline.

After this time, keyless calls to the Maps JavaScript API and Street View API will return low-resolution maps watermarked with “for development purposes only.” Keyless calls to any of the following APIs will return an error:

  • Maps Static API (including Static Street View)
  • Directions API
  • Distance Matrix API
  • Geocoding API
  • Geolocation API
  • Places API
  • Roads API
  • Time Zone API

At Rubious we ensure that all of our websites within the past few years include API keys, so no loss of service should be experienced to our clients.

If you’re utilising these services and are unsure whether you have an API key, then please contact your developers to make sure this is put in place before the deadline.

Billing accounts required for heavier usage

Beginning June 11, in addition to a valid API key Google are encouraging any heavy users of their services to set up a Google Cloud Platform billing account to access their API.

Once this is set up you may use up to $200 per month of requests for free, afterwards, anything that exceeds this will result in you will be billed for your usage. this affects all API requests made through a website.

To give you a little context, here is what the $200 free budget could get you on a monthly basis:

  • up to 40,000 – User location requests, OR
  • up to 11,000 – ‘Place’ requests, OR
  • up to 5000 – ‘Nearby’ searches (searching for places within a radius) , OR
  • up to 40,000 – Directions requests

There is a updated price table which fully illustrates what the maximum number of requests that can be made within the free budget.

I only have a simple map on my website, do I need a billing account?

To be on the safe side, yes you will, although there is no need for concern if your website only contains a few simple maps as you will never exceed the $200 free budget that you are provided with each month.

Users are allowed access to the following services for free, regardless of usage:

  • Free Maps usage for iOS, Android, and Embed (for displaying maps only)
  • Free Maps URLs

If your embedded map has additional features such as custom icons, a custom style applied, directions or places; then it’s very likely that the embedded map falls outside of the above free usage and would be subject to the API usage limits.

Google have assured the community that 98% of websites will fall under the free usage limits under the new changes. This means that no further action should be required if you website usage is limited to a simple embedded map or limited usage of their API.

To quote Google from their own services area (emphasis added):

Even though your first $200 of monthly usage is free, all Google Cloud Platform services require a credit card and billing account, to cover any amount you spend over this free credit. If you are billed, we’ll credit your account for the first $200 of monthly usage. If you choose not to add a billing account, there is a risk that if your usage exceeds $200 in a given month, your Maps API implementation will be degraded or other API requests will return an error.

The $200 free budget is applied regardless of whether or not you set up a billing account. Setting up an account only ensures that if you go over this limit then access to their services will not be revoked,

This is likely to cover the majority of basic usage, You only need to consider creating a billing account if your website is a high traffic site that relies on the Maps API.

Unsure of your usage? Take action now

Does your website use Google’s API to carry out important functions such as (but not limited to) looking up a user’s location, getting a businesses address or performing a search based on a Geographical location? If so then it’s time to review your usage.

Each request made to Google’s services should be done with an API key. In Google’s Cloud Console you will be able to see each key that you have set up along with the current usage for that key.

If you do not have a login to Google Cloud Console then contact the developers of your website as they will be able to access this or point you in the direction of how to gain access. If it looks like you will need to set up a billing account then bear in mind you can set up quotas to ensure that you never get an unexpected bill for usage. These quotas can send email alerts to you when your website is approaching the limit that you’ve set up.