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The year-old Google Maps API is still free. But on its one-year anniversary, it’s joined by a new, fee-based licensed mapping product from Google that targets enterprises with more customizable options.
Google is building out its free Google Maps API, a tool that allows web developers to incorporate Google’s interactive maps into web sites. The company announced several advances this week in connection with the one-year anniversary of the Google Maps API and Google Earth, the company’s downloadable virtual globe imaging program.
Among them, Google announced the launch of a fee-based mapping product to supplement its free API: a license and support for businesses wanting to embed a Google Maps experience in web sites or internal applications. The product, based on the Google Maps API, builds on it with functionality that enables businesses to further customize the API by mapping customer locations, tracking shipments, managing facilities, or viewing any other data source in a geographic context, according to the company.
The added functionality around the fee-based product, which targets enterprise users such as retailers and other businesses, could position the product to compete with MapQuest`s interactive maps. MapQuest currently provides mapping functionality for nearly 60% of retailers that offer online maps and driving directions.
“If you want to use the API, and you are a free web site, which means you don’t charge people a subscription, you can still use the Google API for free,” explains Matt Booth, vice president and program director of interactive local media at local search and advertising consultants The Kelsey Group. However, he adds, the Google maps suite is attached to features that a retailer may not want, such as advertisements by other retailers. “If you took the free API, for instance, there is a chance Google may run advertisements on the maps that show up on your site, so if you are a retailer, other advertisements from retailers around you may show up on the maps.”
In exchange for free maps, a smaller retailer might accept the presence of ads from the store next door on the online maps on their own site, but how about a large retail chain? “If you choose to have a custom application-pricing starts about $10,000-you can strip off the advertising and do other things with it. So I would imagine for the larger big box retailers that have a lot of marketing money, they might opt for something like that,” Booth says.