Google Will Charge For Maps&mdash;Just Enough That You <i>Might</i> Notice

Google is finally beginning to tighten the screws on users of its Google Maps. Well, sort of. On October 26, the search giant said that, starting Jan. 1, 2012, it will begin charging $4 per 1,000 views through its Maps API—but only for Web sites that exceed 25,000 map-views in a single day. Because Google is only counting the initial map access in that 25,000, it should be pretty easy for retailers to calculate whether this change will cost them anything at all.

For many retailers using Google Maps just on "find a store" pages, that pricing pretty much wipes out any incentive to jump ship to Microsoft's or Yahoo's map offerings—changing and testing the code would probably cost more than paying the overage fee on a few busy days. (If you're a heavier user, because you have Google Maps in logistics or other geotracking applications, you may want to consider your options.) The actual pain may be trivial this time around, but it's still a reminder that free Internet services probably won't stay free forever—even from Google, which really wants retailers to be its new best friends.