Unsplash clarifies who has to pay for the use of their API

Update from August, 9th

I have reached out to Unsplash community manager Natalie Brennan to confirm or deny this news and after a while she had obtained the answer from the API team.

For 95%+ of our partners, the API will continue to be free. For certain enterprise / high volume partners, we will be charging a small monthly fee. And that we’re manually reaching out to partners that fall into this bucket, but most, if not all, independent developers don’t meet that paid tier.

Original article from July, 28th

More than 3 million free photos, more than 250 thousand talented photographers – that’s what you get access to when you use the Unsplash API. This currently serves 1.9 billion queries per month through more than 1300 linked apps (like Medium, Trello, Squarespace, or Google Slides), according to its own data. Signing up your own app is made quite easy on the site, and so far there’s been little reason not to, given the free usage. However, a shocking message has now appeared in an entry at Hacker News, which has not received the attention it deserves.

We understand the responsibility we have in ensuring our API is always reliable, given we’re natively built into the internet’s most used tools. Because of this, we are deciding to dedicate more resources to our API to ensure it continues to serve our partners, and continue to make it the best photo API when it comes to engineering and content distribution.

According to this, the poster was contacted by Unsplash and informed that the use of the API will cost money in the future. In view of the monthly 1.9 million queries and around 500 thousand downloads that would come about through his application, they would actually ask for 10,000 dollars per month. However, since he has been API partner for so long, they would only ask for 5 thousand. This would go into effect August 1 and would be billed by invoice. Note that they also talk about a “small fee” that would depend on the use of the API.

While big companies that can generate notable revenue from their products and can certainly easily afford Unsplash as a nice to have feature, the disappearing free access to the API could break the neck of numerous indie developments. However, it is not yet clear from the announcement whether there might not be a contingent that can be used for free.

“We’re going to be charging a small fee based on monthly usage.”

Unsplash email to API user

This news also comes at a time a few months after the surprise announcement that Unsplash would be acquired by Getty Images. Even then, fans had feared that this might result in changes that are not in their favor. The mentioned mail also states that they decided to put more resources into maintaining the API and making it the “best photo API when it comes to engineering and content distribution”.

Unfortunately, Unsplash has not yet been available for a statement.

(Header image: Christian Wiediger)

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