Google Maps Platform new terms of service are not clear

Last month we published a post about the Google Maps Platform New Pricing Model.

We decided to write that post after we received an email from Google titled “Changes to your Google Maps APIs account”.

Reading that Google newsletter, it was 100% clear that the free usage of the Maps API was soon going to be a lot more limited than in the past.

It was also clear that prices were going to be a lot higher than in the past and that they required a payment method linked to your account (a credit card) to avoid getting restricted from using the Google Maps API.

What wasn’t 100% clear and nobody appeared to have paid attention to, was that all the Terms of Service are changing too and they are changing radically.

We realized this thanks to our member Craig, who opened this topic in our forum the other day and made us dig deeper: Changes to Google Maps Platform Terms of Service.

He made us notice a clause in section 3 of the Google Map Platform terms of service that sounds like a declaration of war to all online listings directories:

3.2.4 Restrictions Against Misusing the Services.

(c) No Re-Creating Google Products or Features. Customer will not use the Services to create a product or service with features that are substantially similar to or that re-create the features of another Google product or service. Customer’s product or service must contain substantial, independent value and features beyond the Google products or services. For example, Customer will not:

(iii) use the Google Maps Core Services in a listings or directory service or to create or augment an advertising product;

Source

That goes into effect on June 11, 2018

What would happen if Google Maps blacklisted domains using their API for directories?

GeoDirectory users could easily switch to Open Street Map that we support 100% and that can be already used to completely replace Google Maps.

Because of this news, we also decided to start developing as soon as possible other integration with alternative maps providers.

Candidates are Bing, MapBox, Mapfit and hopefully even Baidu Maps for the Chinese market.

For other Directory Developers who are relying on directory plugins, themes and scripts that only offer integration with Google Maps, their website could show broken maps until their developers do something about it.

What is Google saying about this?

We contacted both their sales team and we created a topic in the Google Maps support forums to ask for more details and both suggested that GeoDirectory based websites will be allowed to keep using the Google Maps API, but none of them really gave us a straight answer.

Here you can see the answer from the Google Maps sales representative:

and here you can read their reply in the Google Maps support forum.

It would be great to have a straight answer, because every lawyers that I know and I consulted about this matter, came to the same conclusion:

With that clause in their terms of service, Google reserves the right to shut down access to the API to any directory anytime.

Providing “substantial, independent value and features beyond the Google products or services” is a broad definition and could be interpreted in countless ways.

Basically this leaves Google the power to arbitrary decide if your directory can or can’t use the Google Maps API.

What are your thoughts?

Considering that after June 11th it will be quite easy to reach the Google Maps API monthly free limits and that Google added such a dangerous clause in their Terms of Service for Directory Developers.

Will you keep using the Google Maps API or are you considering to move to Open Street Map?

If you don’t like Open Street Map, what would be your preferred choice? Please tell us your thoughts and preferences in the comments section down below!

43 thoughts on “Is Google declaring war on Web Directories?

  1. I moved to Open Street Map primarily because it is open source and does what I need it to do. I am getting more and more concerned with companies like Facebook and Google dramatically altering their terms of use. From a business perspective I would prefer not to put all of my eggs in one large companies basket. At least as much as is possible.

    • Hi Jason,

      we haven’t explored their APIs yet, but it could definitely be an option if they offer all features we need.

      However developers must sign up for a Apple Developer account that cost $99/year just to obtain a key, in order to use the MapKit JS beta.

      After that they will provide 250,000 map initializations per key per day for free, as well as 25,000 service requests which covers geocoding and searches.

      That is similar to what GMaps used to offer.

      Thanks

    • Isn’t probably Yelp one of their biggest paying account for the Google Maps API?

      I’m almost sure they are.

      Would pushing them to another map provider weaken them as competitors?

      I don’t think so…

  2. This appears to be any other way in which Google is in breach of Australian Consumer Law (unreasonable terms). Google Adwords Terms of Service also breach the Australian Consumer Law (stating that only arbitration in the USA is the only option). It will be interesting to see if the Australia Consumer and Competition Commission (the regulator) takes Google to court over this.

  3. Yelp probably is one of their biggest paying accounts, but usage fees are probably a drop in the bucket compared to what they are going to generate through ad revenue from maps. I’ve seen projections of 5 billion a year by 2020. A few years ago yelp was planning a move to bing maps and backed out.

    Still one has to wonder about their war with yelp. In the meantime, yelp continues to whack them even though they control local search and generate 75% of desktop users google search. Makes you wonder if some google decisions are driven by yelp.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/01/technology/yelp-google-european-union-antitrust.html

  4. I’m a long time user of the GOOG Maps API … originally it had unlimited FREE usage … then it went to 25,000 FREE loads per day … now going to 100,000 FREE loads per MONTH …. what’s next?; no free loads period?.

    The recently announced dramatic price increases to the Maps API indicates that Google has become insensitive to the survival of small web publishers – a switch to Open Maps isn’t just prudent, but necessary for long-term survival.

  5. Here’s the other problem with the new GOOG Maps API pricing model;

    If your CPM is only generating only $2 or $3 per 1,000 loads (your CPM will vary from niche to niche) …. and your cost is $7 over and above the small free allowance …. it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that a net profit could quickly turn into a net-loss.

    Unfortunately for those who are operating multiple web sites with the same API Key – could find they burn-up their free load allowance quickly each day.

  6. ARTICLE; OpenStreetMap Should Be a Priority for the Open Source Community ….

    Despite its low profile, OpenStreetMap is arguably one of the most important projects for the future of free software. The rise of mobile phones as the primary computing device for billions of people, especially in developing economies, lends a new importance to location and movement……..

    https://www.linuxjournal.com/content/openstreetmap-should-be-priority-open-source-community

  7. Actually; Google started killing niche web directories aprox. 3 years ago when they publically started a policy of penalizing web sites for buying links in local/niche directories.

    • Hi, thanks for your comment, however I don’t agree.

      Google has always penalized buying links and a webmaster who thinks to make money selling links through a directory in 2018 (or even 2015), is thinking wrong.

      That’s not where you can add value.

  8. Would probably be very helpful for GD to do a blog post soon on how to optimize the use of OpenStreetMaps in a GD web site …. as I was looking thru the OpenStreetMaps web site yesterday; and it appears their API has very limited functionality from their server – they say they don’t want users hogging their server resources ….. so it looks like you have to download a copy of OpenStreetMaps and serve it from your own server to get strong functionality?.

    • For GeoDirectory we use their API to do everything that you can do through the Google Maps API.

  9. I agree with you if your just buying links on a link farm … however, Google’s announcement of penalizing link buying didn’t come with a distinction between “link farms” and “regional/niche” directories …. so some web marketers that don’t want to get caught in Google cross-hairs started avoiding buying links even in targeted niche directories after the orders from the Ivory Tower of SEO came down.

    • avoiding buying links even in targeted niche directories

      If that’s what you are marketing, you are indeed selling links and I wouldn’t buy a premium listing from you too, because there is no difference between a link farm and a directory selling links.

      What I would buy from you, is traffic, real visitors and possibly business, not just better Google Rankings.

      External links in GeoDirectory are all nofollow for a reason.

  10. OpenStreetMap Developer FAQ;

    Our API is mainly intended for the use of map editor software. It is not suitable for inclusion in your production-release software. Nor is it available for (for example) downloading data for an entire city. As a result, automatic rate limiting is in force, which restricts a very small number of users to avoid impacting on the service for everyone else. The limit is not some sort of game where you try and download at exactly the maximum rate allowed: it’s a way of cutting off the people who are downloading vastly more than average…………

    https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Developer_FAQ#I.27ve_been_blocked_from_the_API_for_downloading_too_much._Now_what.3F

    • As far as I know, none of our customers using OSM has ever complained about restrictions to their websites. Probably limits are not that low…

  11. here another post in favour of Apple Maps. As they just released an API they must be open to integration as the one we need in WPGeoDirectory. Their costs seem to be much more reasonable. They have a good track record on privacy and as they have trouble competing with Google Maps, they might be reliable partner for the future. The 99 dollar yearly cost doesn’t seem like a big issue as I can imagine many developers already have an account.

  12. 2 major news-media companies in my metro region recently were using Google Maps for the Traffic sections of their web sites …. I just noticed the other day that they’ve both switched to the OpenStreetMap/Mapbox platform for the Traffic maps on their web sites.

  13. I recently released a new WordPress plugin called WP Nearby Places, which greatly depends on the Google API. Eric Malcolm, who I met at the Kent WordCamp is a top-notch developer and shared this article with me. I actually look at this move by Google as a good thing for a number of reasons. One is that we need to give financial support to this platform so that we can have it for years to come, and Google is still very liberal with their pricing. I took the liberty of re-publishing this article’s link in our blog here: https://wpnearbyplaces.com/is-google-declaring-war-on-web-directories/.

    • Hi Albert,

      thanks for your comment. We have been avid supporter of Google Maps for years, but this price increase is an exaggeration. It looks like they want to scare away small directory businesses and we can’t support that…

  14. So as the guy who opened this can of worms I’d really like to thank Paolo and Stiofan for your diligence in pressing Google for answers.

    I do not trust what Google is doing. They’ve done similar things with their other products (Google Apps –> now G Suite).

    And, just like other tech giants they are short on useful answers and generous with useless, vague, overtly ambiguous responses. If you don’t know what I mean, watch the video sessions where Facebook founder Mark Sucks-elsburg (my spelling) testified before the US Congress and the UK Parliament. I’ve never seen someone who tried so hard to avoid answering questions or giving a truthful, detailed response.

    At least Microsoft, Apple, and Oracle do not try to keep it a secret that they are going to charge for just about everything and that making money from software / services is their #1 goal.

    With respect to mapping providers … the more providers GeoDirectory supports the better because it gives developers and webmasters freedom of choosing what works best for them, their site(s), and budgets. However, resources have constraints and markets shift rapidly so priorities must be established.

    The foundations of GeoDirectory has roots very deep in the WordPress ecosystem and the Open Source community. Given this, OpenStreetMaps is the most natural fit. And, GeoDirectory — along with its user community — could add great value to the OpenStreetMaps community itself.

    The main problems with OpenStreetMaps are that its capabilities are more limited than most commercial providers, its UI is not as modern or pretty (especially labels & icons), and its dataset (map content) is not nearly as robust or complete.

    However, this presents a major opportunity for GeoDirectory and the GeoDirectory user community as CONTRIBUTORS and CONTENT PUBLISHERS to OpenStreetMaps which could go a long way to improving OpenStreetMaps for the benefit of everyone.

    Since Stiofan and Paolo are the community representatives of GeoDirectory, to me they seem to be the perfect representatives to reach out to OpenStreetMaps with the idea / offer of collaboration and content publishing. The idea is that listings created in GeoDirectory could be published to update content in the OpenStreetMaps content database. This “contribution of value” to OpenStreetMaps could be offset by a reciprocal agreement that GeoDirectory can pull / cache / publish content from OpenStreetMaps and store it locally to reduce server load and improve site performance for visitors.

    If the content publishing / display functionality was implemented, GeoDirectory + OpenStreetMaps together creates an open source community partnership that could help create a competitive / open source alternative to Google MyBusiness, Bing Places, FB Business, Yelp!, MapQuest / LocalEze, plus many others.

    Local-based search (location-based search) is projected to continue skyrocketing as mobile-based internet traffic continues to grow, more automobiles include “online” capabilities, and as autonomous, self-driving vehicles become a reality.

    Therefore, mobile-based or location-based SEO is going to be one of THE major battlegrounds for advertising dollars for the next several years, and that may explain why Verizon actually bought LocalEze / MapQuest, why Apple is getting into the mapping game, why Google is doing what it is doing, and why Microsoft Office 365 Business Premium allows organizations to automatically generate their Bing, Google and Yelp! listings.

    Just my thoughts. What does everyone else think? Is this a good idea or not?

    • User can already edit/improve/contribute to maps with openstreetmap. As far as I know they don’t have an API that we could use to add data to OSM and i don’t think they ever will.

      Thanks

  15. I think it’s much better to get other options of maps available in the system of GeoDirectory’s clients to make competitors (mapping industry like Google, Bing, ..etc) compete to reach to us.

  16. Hi,

    ouch ! Google becomes crazy !!

    Open Street Map could be a transition solution as it is already integrated to WP Geodirectory but I find their maps are not very “sexy” but it’s free.

    Here.com : 0$ for 15k/mo or 49$ for 100k transactions/mo)
    Mapbox.com : 0$ for 50k/mo
    Carto.com : 149$ for 250k/mo

  17. WOW! If you look at my forum posts a month ago I hate to say I told you guys so! I do believe I said we can’t have all our eggs in one google basket. Google is really turning people off on all their products. Not good for them.

  18. Thank you for your research and information.

    Please concentrate more on OSM. OSM should be also GDPR-compliant and the server should be in Europe for European API calls.

  19. Hi Paola,

    Congrats on V2 release, I have been following your Blog, about V2, Google Maps. etc. so am asking is now the right time to start a website on GD using V2, using your Bundled Package, as your still updating themes and plugins for WP?
    Thanks

    • Hi,

      today we release the BETA of Location Manager. We are working on all other add-ons already. Few are almost ready to be released like the new social importer, other will take a while longer.

      Hopefully by the end of the summer everything will be released. Depending on what you need and considering that the most time consuming part of building a directory is creating the database, I think this could be a good time to start.

      Thanks

  20. Thanks, Paolo, Your right, it will take some time to set up a database So which would be the better theme, to start with the free package,? Then can I upgrade to Travel or Supreme Theme, what do you Recommend?

  21. Hi, you think it’s possible that a bot makes many map calls in order for me to waste money? or I’m being too paranoid? Thanks

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