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24 June 2016 @ 07:54 pm
Decline of Google Maps team  
Google Maps was an excellent product when it was released back in 2004:
1) It was convenient (allowed map drag&drop and zoom in/out with mouse).
2) It was fast.

But then founders left, incompetent middle managers took over, and decline of Google Maps team began:
1) Now Google Maps is much slower than it was.
To understand how much slower - you should try using old version of Google Maps that is still available at https://www.google.com/moon/
Current Google Maps is about 5 times slower on zooming in/out that Google Moon (old Google Maps framework).
2) Google Maps is not even able to show cursor on their location "Search Google Maps" input textbox:
https://www.google.com/maps
Immediately after load cursor blinks once and then disappears (in Google Chrome. In Internet Explorer cursor stays visible).
Even Microsoft Maps team is able to keep cursor visible in their address input Inbox: https://www.bing.com/mapspreview

Anyway, that was just a preface, here is my today story.
That story is about my interaction with Google Maps API team.

Google Maps API sales squeeze
Couple of days ago Google Maps API team introduced changes in their pricing:
---
http://googlegeodevelopers.blogspot.com/2016/06/building-for-scale-updates-to-google.html
1. We no longer support keyless access (any request that doesn't include an API key).
...
3. We have reduced the daily map load maximum limit you can purchase for Google Maps JavaScript API... from 1,000,000 to 100,000 requests per API.
4. We now count Google Maps JavaScript API client-side requests towards the daily limit of the associated web service API.
---

It is actually hard to understand what they mean. Here is the gist of it:
1) Google Maps usage by users from browsers that was free in the past - is not free anymore.
2) Reasonable standard plan prices were available earlier for up to 1M requests per day.
Now that limit is 10x lower at 0.1M requests per day.

You might think it is not a big deal to go up and switch from Standard Plan to Premium Plan when you scale your business.
I thought that too. Until I finally managed to find out how much Premium Plan costs.
Premium Plan costs 40 times more than Standard Plan.
40 times, Karl!

Standard plan is $0.50 per 1000 requests.
Premium plan is $20 per 1000 requests.
(That is approximation. Actual prices are a little bit lower due to free quotas every plan has).

But wait, there is more.
Premium plans starts at $10000/year minimum.

And more:
-----
https://developers.google.com/maps/pricing-and-plans/
Premium Plan: If you charge a subscription fee beyond the Play or App stores, you require the Premium Plan. Web service APIs and the JavaScript API require the Premium Plan.
-----
If you believe that statement, then pretty much everyone who uses Google Maps Web service API (e.g. geocoding) or JavaScript API (typical Google Maps snippet on the web site) must subscribe to Premium Plan and shell out $10K/year.

On the other hand, it contradicts with the whole idea for the Standard Plan pricing.
Who does qualify for Standard Plan pricing, if everyone must use Premium Plan anyway?

I wanted to clarify that Premium Plan issue and spoke with Gregory from Google Maps team. He told me that we must pay, because we have premium subscriptions for our product.
It did not matter that we are well below 100,000 requests per day (we average about 2,000 geocoding requests per day and about 25,000 map requests per day).
It did not matter that 99% of our usage is free for our users.
According to Gregory, because premium users use our product (job postings) and our product uses Google Maps Geocoding, we must use Premium Plan.
Gregory did NOT give me any examples of businesses that qualify for Standard plan pricing.

Analysis
I think Google Maps API team managers intentionally crafted such a vague "Standard Plan vs Premium Plan" message.
It allows them to sit on two chairs at the same time:
1) Squeeze businesses for more money.
2) Soften public outrage from that squeeze and encourage startups to start using Google Maps API.

I think that this strategy is wrong and indicates incompetence of Google Maps API management team.
Confusing and squeezing customers like that is not a sound business practice.

My guess is what Google Maps API management is trying to do now with most businesses - is the same strategy they used for years with largest web businesses. That explains why big web sites rarely use Google Maps and use Bing Maps instead (e.g. Zillow). Microsoft treats their business customers much better than Google Maps team does.

What is next?
Here's my business plan so far:
1) Remove Google Maps from postjobfree.com
It is not clear if having maps is beneficial to our users (job seekers and recruiters).
2) Consider switching to another geocoding provider.
E.g.:
- OpenCageData - $100/month for up to 20,000 requests per day.
- developer.here.com - $59/month for 150,000 geocoding requests per month.

What do you think I should do?
1) Do you have a recommendation for good geocoding service?
2) Are maps valuable on job and resume pages?

Update 1:
Select transcript from conversation with Gregory
===================
[0:55:22]
Gregory: We still have cost on our side. We have to run a business. There is whole a lot of overhead in that map... Especially in terms of keeping it up to date, keeping it accurate, keeping it at scale. So, 10 thousand dollars is the minimum we came up with.
And you can argue it is not appropriate and fair. And I tell you very honestly - you won't be alone. But at the end of the day it is still $10K.
.....
[1:07:10]
Gregory: The big reason that we switches at the beginning of the year [2016] and started offering Standard and Premium plan was to cast a wider net. And to get more people like yourself that are longer tail into using our maps. But again, this is where I know you may find a difference, but there are some cases where you just can't fall into the Standard. But there are a lot of people who are able to use the Standard now and, you know, pay as they go, and grow and everything. But certain use cases just didn't qualify. And I think that's the part that you've just haven't been able to accept. Because of either you are saying your are small and not profitable [DG: I did not say that I'm not profitable] I totally clear you loud and clear on that. Or you are not offering something that's paid.

And I think you are trying to use it on both sides, when you are saying it's free and paid. And I explained to you when it's both we've been given a directive that the paid trumps the free.
[1:08:20]

[1:09:20]
Gregory: I think at this point we just need to follow the truth. So, how do you wanna leave it. What actions do you need on our side.

Dennis: I guess nothing. Let's keep going as we were going. Google already charges me. You lowered the quotas. So now I'm more likely to hit this. You started to charge for something that was free before. And I am fine with this.
But I am not fine with you increasing it straight to $10,000 right now.

Gregory: No. I'm not gonna do that. If you won't signing the contract - it won't happen. But I can't control what our Compliance team is doing and how they are checking. And if they check and call then it is something that has to be dealt with between you and the Compliance team.

Dennis: My understanding is that the Compliance team probably would be interested in insisting on Premium License when we are closer to 100,000 requests per day. May be not reach it, but close.

Gregory: [laughing in ironic "Steve Balmer" style] I love how you are taking this assumption.

Dennis: And you know why I'm taking this assumption? Because Google actually lowered that quota from 1 million to 100,000 requests per day.

Gregory: You are referring to the blog post? Is that what you are referring to?

Dennis: Blog post and emails that I received. The change that happened few days ago. The limit was 1 million...

Gregory: Do you have the copy of the letter you received?

Dennis: Yes I have.

Gregory: Do you mind just sending it to us? So I could share.
Because this is actually good feedback, Dennis.
Because I could say "this letter has customer thinking. This is how this should be interpreted".
And again, we need to recognize if that's, you know, unclear or ambiguous, so we don't have people like you, you know, worried about or confused. We should try to make it clear. You should send it to me at gregory at google dot com.

Gregory: I think the best thing to do... I really think it would be wise to bounce it off someone on your team, ideally a legal person.
And again if you feel like your use case needs more scrutiny on our side, if you can just put that in writing - what your use case is -- I'm happy to share it with our team members.

Dennis: One more thing about Premium. Say, some time in the future I finally switch to Premium.
$10,000 is the minimum fee. But how is it defined? There is no upper boundary, right?
Like what is the charge?

Gregory: [Laughing] "There is no upper boundary", oh boy. Jeremy, what do you think: "OEM"? Or something else?

Jeremy: Yeah.

Gregory: So you'd get 500,000 map credits per year. And the map credit is defined as the load of the map. The visual load of the map is the map credit. So you'd get half million of those.
You'd get free 100,000 geocodes per day. You go over that - then it would start to decrement your map credit.

Dennis: Ok. Free - 1,000

Gregory: No-no. I did not say 1,000. I said 100,000. Geocodes.

Dennis: Ok. 100,000 geocodes. With Standard it's like 2,500.

Gregory: Right.
.....

[1:14:17]
Dennis: And if it is above 500,000 then what is the price?

Gregory: We have different tiers. If you are just barely over, you can just get another quantity of 500,000.
If it looks like you are about double that rate, you just sign up for quantity 2, so you get a million at $20K.
But as far as price break - I think 5 million.
===================

Update 2:
According to this explanation, postjobfree.com does NOT fall under any of cases below that require Premium Plan:
-------------
https://developers.google.com/maps/faq#understanding-terms-of-service
Can I use the Google Maps API on a commercial website?
As long as your site is generally accessible to consumers without charge, you may use the Google Maps API. For example, if your website is supported by advertising, it likely falls within the Google Maps API Terms of Service. If you charge people to place information on your map (e.g. to list their homes for sale), but you display this information using the Google Maps API on a free part of your site, you'll also meet the Google Maps API Terms of Service.

However, not all commercial uses are allowed. For example, if your site meets any of the following criteria you must purchase the appropriate Google Maps APIs Premium Plan license:
- Your site is only available to paying customers.
- Your site is only accessible within your company or on your intranet.
- Your application relates to enterprise dispatch, fleet management, business asset tracking, or similar applications.
Remember, Google reserves the right to suspend or terminate your use of the Google Maps API at any time, so please ensure that you read the Terms of Service carefully.
-------------
So Gregory's claim that PostJobFree must use Google Maps API Premium Plan contradicts to that explanation.
I guess Gregory is hard pressed by his bosses to push more Google Maps API users to Premium Plan.
And his bosses probably got a "get profitable or die" message from their superiors.

Links:
Quora: Google Maps API vs Bing Maps API: which is more cost efficient to use?
StackOverflow: Google Maps geocoding vs Bing Maps geocoding
 
 
 
Clean and soberanspa on June 25th, 2016 12:25 am (UTC)
It looks like Google Maps team got a "get profitable or die" message from their superiors.

Personally, I do not know of a good geocoding service. But there used to be plenty. What is your plan if OpenCageData deemed not reliable? You would need an alternative provider.
Dennis Gorelikdennisgorelik on June 25th, 2016 02:55 am (UTC)
> It looks like Google Maps team got a "get profitable or die" message from their superiors.

I agree.
Google Maps managers are pressing sales team for Premium sales. And sales team destroys paying customer base as a result.

Quote from my conversation with Gregory:
====
We still have cost on our side. We have to run a business. There is whole a lot of overhead in that map... Especially in terms of keeping it up to date, keeping it accurate, keeping it at scale. So, 10 thousand dollars is the minimum we came up with.
And you can argue it is not appropriate and fair. And I tell you very honestly - you won't be alone. But at the end of the day it is still $10K.
.....
The big reason that we switches at the beginning of the year and started offering Standard and Premium plan was to cast a wider net.
====

I added partial transcript of the conversation to the original posting.

> What is your plan if OpenCageData deemed not reliable?

Then I find another geocoding provider. There should be many.
OpenCageData is just one of the first I found with quick searching on Google.
СБsab123 on June 25th, 2016 12:44 am (UTC)
Google maps were never convenient and never fast :-) In their early days the Mapquest was beating the crap out of them. Until it decided to simulate them and also became crap.

So, why not try Mapquest or Bing? The Bing maps tend to work much better than Google Maps.
Dennis Gorelikdennisgorelik on June 25th, 2016 03:23 am (UTC)
1) MapQuest was not as convenient as early Google Maps.
I do not remember if it was fast.

Now MapQuest looks comparable with Google and is definitely faster.

2) > why not try Mapquest or Bing?

MapQuest is about two times more expensive than OpenCageData.
---
https://developer.mapquest.com/plans
$ 199 per month - 75,000 transactions per month
---

Comparable plan on OpenCageData is $100/month for up to 20,000 requests per day.

Bing - does not show their Geocoding API prices. I do not like that.


3) I do not want to shop for mapping solution, because there is a good change that adding maps to postjobfree.com was a misfeature.
Many years ago we added Google Maps because it was cool and free to add.
It's neither cool nor free anymore.

4) Bing Maps are comparable with Google Maps.
Google Maps graphics are better. Bing is faster (but slower than original Google Maps).
Сисадмин-любительulrith on June 25th, 2016 09:24 am (UTC)
Great investigation
Dennis Gorelikdennisgorelik on June 25th, 2016 09:28 am (UTC)
That investigation costed me full day to go through and summarize.

How long did it take you to read it?
(Anonymous) on June 29th, 2016 10:16 pm (UTC)
We also spoke with Gregory. Pretty much the same result. We were using google mostly for address autocomplete and collecting the lat, long info. Also displaying those locations on a map. They wanted us to pay $10,000 even though our app is free and doesn't do that many transactions in the first place.

We are going try https://smartystreets.com/ for address suggesting.

Dennis Gorelikdennisgorelik on June 29th, 2016 11:04 pm (UTC)
Smartystreets seems to be more expensive than alternatives (OpenCageData and developer.here.com).
Do Smartystreets correct address only or they do full geocoding?
(Anonymous) on June 30th, 2016 05:50 pm (UTC)
They do geocoding too but I just took a look at developer.here.com. That may be the better option. Price and feature wise. We will give developer.here.com a try as well.
Dennis Gorelikdennisgorelik on June 30th, 2016 08:54 pm (UTC)
Please comment here how developer.here.com worked out for you.
gmaps on December 16th, 2016 09:30 am (UTC)
First of all thank you so much for this fantastic review.

I agree that Google Maps has gone down the drain, and that their pricing scheme is very opaque and misleading. It's a shame really. Most of their other services have good, transparent and fair pricing (eg Google Apps). Here you need to talk to a sales team who can't really answer your questions.

So now looks like you haven't removed Google Maps from your website and I'm assuming you will if and when the compliance team asks you to.

What do you think of OSM? I'm not very familiar with this but do you need to pay for OSM geocoding? Do you need to go through a third-party provider like opencagedata? What about displaying maps?

Thanks so much
Dennis Gorelikdennisgorelik on December 16th, 2016 09:58 am (UTC)
OpenStreetMaps API
1) Yes, we still use Google Maps, but try to use it less (remove Google Maps functionality from some places and do not add any new features that uses Google Maps).

If Google Maps sales team would insist - we would remove it even faster and replace with OpenCageData.
But so far Google Maps works and does not require new code.

3) Does "OSM" mean OpenStreetMaps?
I did not try it.
Does OpenStreetMaps API have geocoding?
http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/API_v0.6
does not contain words "geocoding" or "geocode"

Edited at 2016-12-16 09:58 am (UTC)
Gytis Greitaigytisgreitai on January 4th, 2017 03:06 pm (UTC)
Re: OpenStreetMaps API
OopenStreetMaps have Nominatim.

It's free , but usage is very strict (1 req/s)

They provide code for Nominatim, so you could fire up your own instance, but it will probably cost too much considering the hardware requirements ("For a full planet import 32GB or more are recommended.")