Tuesday, June 02, 2009

ESRI "Free" Web Services

I'm a nice guy, I often raise ESRI's web services (formerly ArcWeb Services, now ArcGIS Online) when talking to clients about options for things like map services, geocodes and routes. It's my way of rooting for the scrappy underdog, the old paleogeographic home team, going up against the Google and Microsoft Bing behemoths.

But someone, please, tap the Redlands team with the clue stick... check out the fabulous new "free" services ESRI is offering to lure developers to their ecosystem!

Free geocoding! Yes! Free! And as many as 1000 geocodes per year. You read that right, kids, per year. Also routing! 5000 per year!

Compare with Yahoo!'s (aside, something about putting an apostrophe after an exclamation mark feels wrong) free API, which offers 5000 geocodes per day (Google offers 15000).

There's a punch-line in here somewhere, but I'm not sure where.

Update: Ray from ESRI notes in the comments that "... the limit of 1,000 geocodes is for geocodes done in BATCH MODE (ie: a request involving more than one address at a time). Place-finding, single address geocoding and single address reverse geocoding are not limited." I may have had it completely backwards, ESRI is not being too stingy, they are being too generous. I'm pretty sure there's lots of people who can script their computers into running lots of sequential individual geocoding requests ... in a "batch", as it were.

Update 2: Ray from ESRI further clarifies the meaning of "batch": "Batch geocoding really means that you are storing the results of your request locally, so you can use them again." So the "batchness" of your request is not governed by the size of the request, but by what you do with the request. (Wait, I've heard that somewhere before...) Comparing to the Yahoo! terms of use we find a similar restriction, which means the ESRI offering is the-same-only-better (fewer restrictions on non-"batch" requests). Better put away the clue-stick, nothing to see here, move along, move along.


Regina Obe said...

I think you missed the main point. The benefit is that these integrate seamlessly with the
ArcGIS 9.2, 9.3 or 9.3.1 line of products.

With google, yahoo,mapquest, bing and all those others you have to stoop down to using manly tools like javascript,flex,.NET, and silverlight. Its not as comfy as being in your homey ArcGIS environment. Now who in there right minds would want to do that.

Mapper99 said...

I'm with you on this one...Me thinks the infrastructure is not in place to support a large volumes of requests.


Seagor said...

Hey but it is a huge increase from the 10 free geocodes you got with AGX!

Geocoding is a commodity why do people continue to see it as a profit center - baffling.


There are plenty of apps out there that wrap Goog, Yahoo! and Bingsss geocoding services in a user interface. Bit sad people would pay just not to leave the ESRI desktop, but I guess not all that surprising.

ray said...

Hey Paul,

Perhaps it isn't clear on the description at http://www.esri.com/software/arcgis/arcgisonline/world_geocoding.html but the limit of 1,000 geocodes is for geocodes done in BATCH MODE (ie: a request involving more than one address at a time).

Placefinding, single address geocoding and single address reverse geocoding are not limited.

Ray Carnes, ESRI

Regina Obe said...


I'm probably still being a little dense here -- but 1000 addresses batch geocode limit

Does that mean

a) limited 1000 addresses per batch geocode (but unlimited batch geocodes)


b) if you do any kind of batch geocoding -- you are limited to a total of 1000 addresses period.

I suppose if (b) that would make you super generous as Paul's example can be optimized by batching your batches into 1000 address increments.

Regina Obe said...

oops slight correction -- I mean (a) is more generous than (b)

ray said...


It is b).

One request with 1,000 addresses will use up your quota.

500 requests with 2 addresses will use up your quota.

Paul Ramsey said...

And 1000 requests with 1 address?

ray said...

No. 1,000 requests of 1 address do not use up the 'batch quota'.

Here is a question that I am suggesting be asked and answered on the website:

Q: What qualifies as batch geocoding?

A: Batch geocoding really means that you are storing the results of your request locally, so you can use them again. You can basically “store” up to 1,000 requests using the standard (free) World Geocoding service. There is unlimited use of single geocodes (that do not need to be stored) at no cost for internal or non-commercial external use. You are not allowed to programmatically serialize single geocode requests in order to save addresses for later use.

Do you think this will clarify what we mean?


Regina Obe said...


I think that clarifies it. Well at least the intent not the letter. People may ask "What do you mean by save?" Does saving to a csv file constitute "Saving?" or you mean saving in ArcGIS.NET array or dataset or something.

Actually I haven't played around with this geocoder. I assume I can access it from my ArcGIS desktop install and possibly there is an option for batch geocode vs. one off addressing. If such a thing existed then it would be clearer. If you use the batch geocode interface you are batch geocoding and if you use the single you are not (and the single you could probably put timings on to make people described in Paul's model from "abiding by the letter" as well as the "intent".

Paul sorry to shatter your dreams like that. I think your 1 address 1000 time calls would be considered batch geocoding by at least intent.

ray said...

In case anyone is reading this thread, ESRI has updated the description of 'batch' on the product page and published the pricing for the services.


Batch geocoding is $50 for every 25,000 geocodes.

Routing is $50 for every 5,000 routes.


james said...


Are these geocodes Bing Map geocodes that are available?

james said...


Are these geocodes Bing Map geocodes for the US?


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