Oct 28, 2011

Sad, Bad, Evil day for the web - Google starts charging Maps API usage

I've been a Google fanboy for so long. Google has been one of the companies I've admired for long time. They've been doing so much good for the web and the world with their world class free services. Millions of webpages, blogs, applications and services are better because of a Google services like free maps, Blogger, Analytics, Webmaster tools, Feedburner and all the stuff in their API's. It might be, that now, all that have become to an end.

Google recently announced that they are starting to charge on their Maps API usage. This might sound as a small move, but it might turn out to be a game changing move. There's thousands, if not millions of services out there using their Maps API and now they are all pissed off. Of course Google has tried to make their billing schema so, that service won't cost for most of the users currently. They only want to charge the heavy users. The thing they might have not thought thoroughly is, that people have high hopes for their web services and applications. They might actually see this free limit to be totally insufficient to their future needs. Now all of them are making calculations on their business plans and usage statistics.

Then there's the question in everyone's mind, what will be the next Google service that they start billing? It might be so, that they don't have any plans to bill on any other service for foreseeable future, but definitely there will be lot of guesses and rumors flying around. Let's say what if you are building your service and you are thinking if you would use Google's user authentication system, so that you wouldn't need to build you own. For sure, the questions that will come to you mind is, will they start billing on this one too soon.

This move might be the one that changed Google to be as all the other companies. It might be so, that Google have turned mature and they are now only caring about their profit and cash flow and not about the web and people anymore. It really might be, that these same business people who have taken over most of the other big companies, have now taken over Google and there's strict business targets for all quarters and that's what they will care for now on.

Someone might say that they are just doing business. That's what companies are for. But that's exactly the point, so far Google has been seen as the good guys in the web, not the greedy ones. They have been the guys who are actually making web a better place, with all the free services they've provided. I do know that those haven't really been free ever, but they have hiddenly made the money from advertising and some premium services, but they haven't been greedy enough to bill for other services. Now it look likes that business have won the ideology. They have become greedy.

If you check their financial results, they're doing quite fine. In the 3Q 2011 they did 2,73 billion net profit. I guess it's not a must  for them to start billing on Maps API:
From Google Financial Results

And don't get me wrong. I financially and business point somewhat understand what they are doing. They are after easy wins, they are after quarterly results, they are after money. If you rely on an old school business books, they are doing just as they are supposed to do. But it's a new world. It's a world, where free is a business model. It's a world, where brand means much more than ever. Now they are playing with both, they are taking a hit on their ideological brand and they are stating that we will not be free forever.

From now on any application or service developer, who want's to run a business, can't actually take Google Maps services in to use without considering the costs of that service to them. That will mean they will start to also look for alternatives. And as there ain't that good alternatives existing, the result is that everyone loses. We, the web users, are not going to get as good new services as we have got so far. Also we will not going to get as many good freemium services as we have seen so far. In the end everyone at the web loses.

Maybe I'm playing devil's advocate here, but I feel Google has changed for forever. That's a sad day for Google fanboy. Google has become as greedy as all the others.
Written by +Henri Hämäläinen

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