Bing Maps get more sensible licensing

There is a certain inclination to compare the map offerings of Google and Microsoft. Bing Maps still isn’t free, but is becoming more and more friendly to use, both from a technology perspective and a licensing one.

It was recently announced on the Bing Maps blog that the terms of use would change. The key changes can be categorized into two buckets: First, educators and non-profits get Bing Maps for free. Others gain a significant amount of usage for free as well. Second, the basis of licensing is no longer the confusing “transaction”, but rather a more understandable session.

Transactions replaced by sessions

Previously, the billing unit has been a transaction (or usually, thousands or millions thereof). A transaction has represented a request for geocoding, routing, search or map tiles. Thus, if you embedded a browsable AJAX map onto your web pages, you would generate a bunch of transactions depending on how much the user decides to browse around in the map control.

Starting from now, each rendering of an AJAX or Silverlight map view counts as a session, no matter how much the user browses or searches in the window. This makes the map costs far more predictable, and can also be used to tie the costs to income (per-view advertising for example). A great change, and removes a lot of confusion in determining the cost for using the Bing Maps services.

The concept of a transaction still exists when using stateless web service APIs, but for many use cases it won’t be relevant anymore.

More free use

Educational and non-profit institutions get unlimited access to the maps, but there are a few limitations on usage scenarios (you cannot implement real-time navigation or fleet tracking) as well as usage volume of certain services. Also, Bird’s eye imagery isn’t available. However, none of these limits makes Bing Maps useless by any means – the map data provides great possibilities even with some of the limitations.

Also, any entity may use the service for free up to 125 000 sessions and 500 000 transactions per year (340 and 1370 per day, respectively). Not extremely much, but it will certainly help you evaluate the service rather comprehensively, and will also serve quite a few smaller applications totally. Of course, if you need more, you can just buy some. The current prices don’t seem to be visible on the Bing Maps licensing site, but last I checked, they weren’t of the bank-breaking caliber.

Browse the Terms of Use if you want more details.


All in all, very reasonable changes. In particular, making the map data more easily accessible helps Bing defend its position against Google Maps: there is still substantial hardship in arguing for Bing’s costs while Google is mostly free. On the other hand, Bird’s eye is great and the software development tools for Bing seem to be improving fast. Whether the 99.9% uptime SLA you get from Microsoft makes a difference is entirely up to you and your usage scenario.

Both map services certainly seem to be viable options for any site – a great situation, considering how critical maps have turned out to be these days.

November 10, 2009 · Jouni Heikniemi · One Comment
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Web

One Response

  1. Roch - April 16, 2011

    Is there a way to have an embed map of bing using the bird's eye view but zoomed out? The default zoom is too close and can't really show the whole neighborhood.

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