Could embedded Google Maps really be so heavy?

I find Google Maps a very convenient way to quickly embed maps into my sites. However, I have lately discovered some alarming statistics using YSlow on a site I am building.

HTTP Requests:
Without Google Map - 13
With Google Map - 47

Page Size With Empty Cache:
Without Google Map - 375KB
With Google Map - 821KB

It appears that the presence of a basic embedded Google map on the homepage more than doubles my download size and nearly quadruples the number of HTTP requests! (Some of the Google map downloads are gzipped, which I think YSlow doesn’t take into account in the final figure - this might help the weight issue some but doesn’t change the number of HTTP requests - 34 requests for a single page element is staggering to me.)

First, am I reading these figures right, and is there any way to mitigate the crushing load of an embedded Google Map? The only thing I can think of offhand is to replace the map with a static preview image that brings the real map up in an AJAX lightbox when clicked.

Second, if these figures are accurate, how can any webmaster, anywhere, put up with such a millstone around the neck of his site?

That doesn’t surprise me at all. Google Maps is a very heavy site, because it has not only the images themselves but a lot of scripting to make it work.

The simple solution I’d suggest is to not put the map on your homepage - put it on a page called ‘Location Map’ or something like that, so that people who want to see it can do, but not everyone who hits on your homepage will have to download it all.

But realistically on a half-decent broadband connection, it won’t be too slow. The number of http requests is likely to slow it down more than the actual byteage transferred, and I would guess that one way to keep that to a minimum is to use a smaller size map, so it won’t have to download as many tiles at a time.

Thanks for your thoughts, Stevie D. I will definitely be leaving embedded Google maps to their own pages in future - certainly not on the homepage at all!