Bing to charge subscription fees for Search API

WindowsAzureMarketplaceLogoIn an email letter sent to Bing developers today, and published on the Bing Developer blog, the Bing Developer team has announced significant changes to the Bing Search API access model, which is moving from a free service to a paid subscription model on the Windows Azure Marketplace.  From the letter:

A few important things to note regarding the upcoming transition:

  • With the transition, Bing Search API developers will have access to fresher results, improved relevancy, and more opportunities to monetize their usage of the Search API. To offer these services at scale, we plan to move to a monthly subscription model. Developers can expect subscription pricing to start at approximately $40 (USD) per month for up to 20,000 queries each month.
  • The transition will begin in several weeks and will take a few months to complete. Developers will be encouraged to try the Bing Search API for free on the Windows Azure Marketplace during the transition period, before we begin charging for the service.
  • At this time, you can continue using Bing Search API 2.0 free of charge. After the transition period, Bing Search API 2.0 will no longer be available for free public use.

The letter promises more information regarding the transition timeline, pricing structure, and other changes “in the upcoming weeks”, and although Bing Search API developers will be able to use the current structure until then, the Bing Search API will soon require use of a new API endpoint, include changes to the request and response schemas, and also include a new security requirement for application key authentication.

A separate process, with details to be provided “shortly”, will occur for developers using the API on a bigger scale, approximately 3 to 4 million queries or more.

This isn’t the first API subscription model change to occur recently, as Google recently announced that it will begin charging for some access to its Google Maps API.  Google’s Custom Search API isn’t free, either, after a free limit of 100 queries per day is reached.  After that, developers need to enable billing, and are charged $5 per 1,000 queries, up to 10,000 queries per day.

Even so, the move won’t be popular among developers used to using the free service, but with the fresher results and monetization opportunities it may be worth it in the end.