WARNING about Google Maps

Q&A about the latest versions
Highton
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Fri Apr 17, 2020 8:02 pm

Many of us include Google Maps in our tours, using the Google Maps API. Over the years, most of us have become accustomed to accessing Google Maps without cost, and rely on them regularly. Even incorporating them into a Pano2VR tour doesn't usually have a financial cost, since Google gives a $200 monthly allowance for their use. The Pan2VR default elements tend to lean toward Google Maps when adding a map element in a tour skin, probably also due to Google Maps' popularity.

However, if you are fortunate enough for your tour to become popular online, be prepared for some outrageous costs or billings from Google.

We experienced this recently with Virtual Yosemite ( https://www.virtualyosemite.org ). We launched the tour in July, 2019 and slowly built our audience over the next six months. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck worldwide in March, our weekly audience suddenly jumped in size 15-20 times, thanks to numerous mentions in worldwide press that included Virtual Yosemite as an online travel experience recommended for people confined to their homes during the quarantines.

In one week, we were billed $100.00 (USD) by Google for Maps usage. The next week, we were billed another $1,000.00 (USD). (We did not receive the first billing until after the second bill arrived.) When our traffic jumped to 35K – 50K visitors per week, Google reported that we were getting close to 220,000 Maps access per week, even though our Google Analytics showed only a fraction of our viewers were accessing the Maps feature of our site.

Google Map's pricing sheet shows that for Dynamic Maps use, they charge a little over $5.00 (USD) if your Maps accesses are between 100,000 and 200,000. That sounds entirely reasonable, but there is "fine print" below the chart that you might miss, indicating that this charge is *per thousand* accesses. So if your viewership is generating 200,000 Google Maps accesses, you are charged the $5.00 rate *per thousand,* or $5.00 x 200 = $1,000.00 (USD).

When we discovered this, we quickly disabled Google Maps on our Virtual Yosemite tour, and within two days, replaced it with open source maps from OpenStreetMap. OpenStreetMap only requires attribution (including a link to their site), and their maps are equally as good, if not better than Google Maps, in my opinion.

We are currently working with Google to mitigate the surprise charges incurred due to our recent traffic increase, but other Pano2VR users should be aware of how expensive (and quickly) your "free" Google Maps usage can become if your site(s) becomes popular. :x
Scott Highton
Author, Virtual Yosemite, Virtual Reality Photography
https://www.virtualyosemite.org
https://www.vrphotography.com
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360Texas
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Fri Apr 17, 2020 10:16 pm

Scott, Thank you for the up front honest and open about Google Map tour observation
Your professional work started long before we started our company back in 1999.

Dave still at

https://360Texas.com
Dave
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Isaac Brown
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Mon Apr 20, 2020 1:56 pm

Wow. Thanks for sharing this experience. Sorry that has happened. On the other hand congratulations on building such a successful virtual tour.
Isaac
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Bostjan
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Tue Apr 21, 2020 6:45 pm

I have removed anything realted to Google, Facebook ... and I am trying to use open source.
My web project is powered by the Academic Research Network servers and with very high usage of the content - education, cultural institutions (have over 100 active museum exhibitions from all over the country), yesterday the National Tourist Organitisation started the huge media promotipon in all World Regions with seven different languages including PRC, Russia etc.. example: https://www.slovenia.info/de/geschichte ... -slowenien
All maps are with the Open Street support and so far it runs fluent and independent of the corporate (Google) companies. I am even with the action to ban anything made by Google, removing Google Street View tours or Facebook as the companies only exploit the content - example Google Art project has naothing to do with the "charity" but it is a pure predator bussines model.
In case That the OS fails I am still capable to create my own hi res map from DMRs.
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Isaac Brown
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Tue Apr 21, 2020 11:55 pm

Interesting approach. Do you know of any open-sourced analytics tracking tools that could replace Google Analytics?
Isaac
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Bostjan
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Wed Apr 22, 2020 6:41 am

To legaly use any web tracking service in European Uniion there is needed a warning about using it on website before entering it.
I am sometimes checking with the Alexa but that service is not relevant. As the example...it displays about 12 times less traffic than it is according the server logs, maybe because most of the traffic is comming from the direct links and internal connectios - I am on academic servers where are most of education and other public institutions. Also I blocked some countries from accessing the web site.
So, a bit clumsy but most relevant method to the the traffic is a server log. (for me).
Bostjan
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Wed Apr 22, 2020 10:37 am

Scott, I have just shared your experience to Linkedin - and started the investigation about spending the public finaces to Google due that Google maps are heavy used by public institutions.
Tx for sharing your experience.
EVerheggen
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Fri Apr 24, 2020 10:18 am

Thank you Scott for sharing your experiences and warning.
Vitaly
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Sun Apr 26, 2020 6:32 pm

Isaac Brown wrote:
Tue Apr 21, 2020 11:55 pm
Interesting approach. Do you know of any open-sourced analytics tracking tools that could replace Google Analytics?
Take a look for MATOMO Open Web Analytics Platform (ex-PIWIK)
I use it for years as main analytics for web sites and for Pano2VR virtual tours.
Matomo is very powerful tool today.
The code for clicking nodes, images, menu, etc. is similar to GA but it differs a little.
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Isaac Brown
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Mon Apr 27, 2020 10:23 am

Vitaly wrote:
Sun Apr 26, 2020 6:32 pm
Isaac Brown wrote:
Tue Apr 21, 2020 11:55 pm
Interesting approach. Do you know of any open-sourced analytics tracking tools that could replace Google Analytics?
Take a look for MATOMO Open Web Analytics Platform (ex-PIWIK)
I use it for years as main analytics for web sites and for Pano2VR virtual tours.
Matomo is very powerful tool today.
The code for clicking nodes, images, menu, etc. is similar to GA but it differs a little.
Thanks Vitaly, will check this out
Isaac
IBCreative
Vitaly
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Mon Apr 27, 2020 1:04 pm

Isaac Brown wrote:
Mon Apr 27, 2020 10:23 am
Vitaly wrote:
Sun Apr 26, 2020 6:32 pm
Isaac Brown wrote:
Tue Apr 21, 2020 11:55 pm
Interesting approach. Do you know of any open-sourced analytics tracking tools that could replace Google Analytics?
Take a look for MATOMO Open Web Analytics Platform (ex-PIWIK)
I use it for years as main analytics for web sites and for Pano2VR virtual tours.
Matomo is very powerful tool today.
The code for clicking nodes, images, menu, etc. is similar to GA but it differs a little.
Thanks Vitaly, will check this out
Example for tracking ht_node:
Mouse Click -> Go to URL -> javascript:_paq.push(['trackEvent', 'Click Node', me.hotspot.title + ' Node: ' + me.hotspot.url]);
Highton
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Tue May 12, 2020 6:21 am

Hi all,

Thanks for your kind remarks and support. I wanted to fill you in on the latest by Google Maps in this case.

Google Maps reviewed the last $1,100.00 charges, and after I made the change to stop accessing Google Maps in Virtual Yosemite, they promised a reimbursement. About a week later, I received a credit on my account for less than HALF of the amount they originally charged. Over three weeks have since elapsed, and they've failed to respond to any of my followup messages asking about the rest of the refund.

The today, I received another bill for 13 cents additional - even though there's been NO Google Maps usage on my site.

This evening, I started phoning their billing office, and was finally able to connect to someone who said he'd pass it on to the proper team. Two hours later, I received an e-mail saying they were crediting the remaining amount (plus the additional 13 cents) to my account, with no explanation of why they only refunded a partial amount originally. I have more questions in to their support team now.

But after this experience, I recommend other tour designers avoid dealing with Google Maps or other Google Cloud services if at all possible. They've proven to be nothing but a headache for me. :(
Scott Highton
Author, Virtual Yosemite, Virtual Reality Photography
https://www.virtualyosemite.org
https://www.vrphotography.com
RockHunter
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Joined: Thu Jan 30, 2020 4:29 pm

Tue May 12, 2020 6:42 pm

Can I ask how you add a OSM Map to the tour? The Skin editor currently only has Google Maps built in, so I'm wondering if you could share how you do that?

kind regards,
Wolfgang
Highton
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Tue May 12, 2020 9:25 pm

Hi Wolfgang,

I found instructions for how to do this with OpenStreetMap in the Pano2VR 6.1 online docs at:
https://ggnome.com/doc/maps-custom-tiles/

It took a little playing to get right, but ultimately, I got it to work. Remember to create a text box in the map window providing the required OSM credit and link to their site.

See Item #3 at:
https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Leg ... dit_you.3F

Good luck!
Scott Highton
Author, Virtual Yosemite, Virtual Reality Photography
https://www.virtualyosemite.org
https://www.vrphotography.com
FPMontes
Posts: 5
Joined: Wed Mar 18, 2020 9:27 pm

Wed May 13, 2020 12:49 am

Hello, I subscribe to all that has been said.

We stopped using Google Maps in all our work for more than a year, as soon as we found out that they were going to charge.

We use OpenStreetMap because it is free. There are other options but they are more expensive than Google Maps.

Google first creates the need and lets you use their stuff for free. When he sees that they are used a lot, he goes to the payment system.

You have to be very careful because you can fall into the trap and when you have many jobs you will waste a lot of time changing Google Mpas for a free one.
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