Last week Google announced that they would soon be placing usage limits on the Google Maps API beginning on January 1, 2012. This move is primarily targeted at larger sites in the travel and real estate industries that have come to rely on Google Maps as an integral part of their services.
To keep using Maps for free, your daily map loads must not exceed 25,000 per day and map loads using the custom map feature must not exceed 2,500. Google estimates that the new policy will affect only 0.35% of users and insists that the new pricing is necessary to continue Maps development.
Google has offered 3 different solutions for those that are exceeding the API limit, the first is to reduce your usage but if you can’t do that then you can either pay $4 per 1,000 map loads over the limit or purchase a Maps Premier License which will set you back at least $10,000 per year but will cover up to 100,000 map loads per day. Pricing also depends on usage so if you are hotels.com, you will probably be paying a lot more. On the bright side, it looks like Premier members will have access to substantially higher resolution street view and larger static maps than those now available.
It really was only a matter of time before Maps adopted a pay to play strategy for big enterprise users as Google Apps and Google Analytics have done. I think we will soon see a similar strategy adopted for other Google services like YouTube and Translate.