Google Maps Exodus Continues As Wikipedia Mobile Apps Switch To OpenStreetMap

from the location,-location,-location dept

Last year, Google announced that it would begin charging high-volume users for access to its previously free Maps API. It seemed like an odd move. Jacking up the price on something, without actually offering anything new to entice customers to stay, only works if you have a total monopoly—and free competitor OpenStreetMap was already growing rapidly at the time.

Not long after the Google announcement, we reported that property search engine Nestoria was jumping ship to OpenStreetMap. Then, in March, news began to spread that Apple was making a strong push to move away from Google Maps data on the iOS platform. FourSquare also abruptly switched. Now the exodus is continuing, with Wikipedia announcing that the latest versions of its mobile apps for iOS and Android have also ditched Google Maps for OpenStreetMap:

Previous versions of our application used Google Maps for the nearby view. This has now been replaced with OpenStreetMap - an open and free source of Map Data that has been referred to as ‘Wikipedia for Maps.’ This closely aligns with our goal of making knowledge available in a free and open manner to everyone. This also means we no longer have to use proprietary Google APIs in our code, which helps it run on the millions of cheap Android handsets that are purely open source and do not have the proprietary Google applications.

One wonders how Google didn't see this coming—or if they did, what exactly their strategy is here. OpenStreetMap is gaining a lot of momentum, and in some areas even features much better data. The real lesson here is that there's never an incumbent that isn't at risk of being unseated, no matter how widespread the adoption of their product or service—especially if they make an anti-customer decision like Google when it put a price tag on Maps. The situation also points to the long-term strength of open solutions: while a crowdsourced system like OpenStreetMap never could have put together a global mapping product as quickly as Google did, over time it has become a serious competitor in terms of both quality and convenience. Indeed, none of the companies that have switched pointed to the price as their number one reason—potentially superior quality, and the desire to support open data, are generally listed as significant factors. Location-based tools are a rapidly growing field, and by failing to stay ahead of their more open competitors (while becoming less open themselves), Google may have sacrificed their role as a crucial engine driving such services.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 6th, 2012 @ 7:50pm

    your argument makes no sense

    you said that google goofed by putting up a fee. that's backed up by nothing to show that it had an impact at all.

    you also said the switchers claimed cost wasnt a problem.

    ....that completely negates your point.

    The reason google added a fee is because this type of thing is expensive to maintain. they wouldn't have added the fee if they thought they could do it without a fee, and if their competitor thinks they can do it with no fee, more power to them, we'll see how well they fare after their initial seed money runs out.

    you seem to be attacking google here, and for the life of me, I cant seem to put a finger on why you are doing it.

    Sure, they are losing non-paying clients to openstreetmap... but they aren't losing money in the process.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Apr 6th, 2012 @ 8:16pm

      Re: your argument makes no sense

      Agreed.

      Google is a business, not a charity.

      Further, let's make it clear - Google maps will be around for a very long time because it's an integral part of what Google does. They have a spare billion or so dollars a year that says they can keep doing it.

      Google has made a very shrewd move to get away from being the source of choice for the largest freeloaders on the net. That's not a bad business decision at all.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        icon
        terry (profile), Apr 6th, 2012 @ 8:48pm

        Re: Re: your argument makes no sense

        Perhaps Google is in the process of changing their business model, but historically they haven't sold their software instead they have sold the users of their software. Anything that reduces the number of users reduces their traditional product inventory. But hey maybe they are planning on selling software instead but I doubt that too many users will be willing to be a marketed product and pay the same company that sells them as such for software. I just think people will believe that is asking too much.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          icon
          Khaim (profile), Apr 6th, 2012 @ 9:00pm

          Users vs money

          The thing is, they're not losing users. None of these applications were directing users to maps.google.com - what they were doing was taking the maps data and displaying it within their own environment. I don't think Google benefits from that in any way, and it's quite frankly amazing that they allow anyone to just leech off them like this.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        icon
        Leigh Beadon (profile), Apr 7th, 2012 @ 8:19am

        Re: Re: your argument makes no sense

        Google has made a very shrewd move to get away from being the source of choice for the largest freeloaders on the net. That's not a bad business decision at all.

        Really? Because they operated YouTube at HUGE losses for YEARS - at one point it was estimated to knock $1-million PER DAY off their bottom line. But they didn't abandon it - they knew it was important to be at the top of the video game, and that they would slowly figure out how to monetize it (which they did)

        I don't see why mapping/location is any different.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Apr 7th, 2012 @ 9:46am

          Re: Re: Re: your argument makes no sense

          With youtube, they could see a path to profit. I don't think they can see a path to profit offering a map API to allow stuff to be included in other pages. Putting ads would fail, as people would just move to the other system anyway.

          There is no path to profitability in the api.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          •  
            icon
            Tim K (profile), Apr 7th, 2012 @ 10:05am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: your argument makes no sense

            I disagree. The more people use the API the more users use google maps. While they may not get anything directly from that, it leads people to use google maps more. I know whenever I want to look up directions I go to google maps because that's what I use on my phone all the time. If I was using open street maps on my phone then I would probably go to that anytime I wanted to look something up on my computer

             

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            •  
              identicon
              Anonymous Coward, Apr 7th, 2012 @ 11:49am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: your argument makes no sense

              Tim, normally that would follow, but the way that the maps are presented, and the content in which they are served doesn't seem to be something that leads to more Google maps use. Clearly, Google is unable to via the API generate enough throughput traffic to parts of their sites with ads to make it work out.

              That doesn't mean that Google maps doesn't work, only that the API doesn't seem to permit much in the way of traffic to get to Google's site. That they targeted particularly high volume accounts sort of tells you where they are with it.

               

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Apr 6th, 2012 @ 10:37pm

      Re: your argument makes no sense

      Quote:
      Sure, they are losing non-paying clients to openstreetmap... but they aren't losing money in the process.


      If you depend on advertisement every time you lose eyeballs you lose money.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        icon
        Michael Lockyear (profile), Apr 7th, 2012 @ 7:32am

        I don't think that they got much advertising when the maps appeared on someone's else's site / app.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2012 @ 1:52am

          Re:

          Will all those Apple fanboys use Google or start contributing to OpenStreetMap to enhance their experience?

          MapQuest is embracing OpenStreetMaps, will they donate code and resources back?

          There is a lot that could happen this move could be great or bad depends on how things develop.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Apr 7th, 2012 @ 5:33am

      Re: your argument makes no sense

      I don't think it really necessarily has anything to do with the cost to maintain it so much as the bandwidth usage by these particular companies. The cost of maintaining the service such that it continues to work is still there regardless.

      Another thing many people don't realize, every option with the service has not always been free. They have for some time offered enterprise level accounts that cost $10,000/month that enable extra functionality not available to users of the free service. For instance, https access is not available through the free service.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Kurt, Apr 7th, 2012 @ 7:14am

      Re: your argument makes no sense

      If you notice all iOS comments, you would probably realize he is an apple follower, thus the reason for the google blasting.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        icon
        Leigh Beadon (profile), Apr 7th, 2012 @ 8:16am

        Re: Re: your argument makes no sense

        If you notice all iOS comments, you would probably realize he is an apple follower, thus the reason for the google blasting.

        Er... all what iOS comments? I'm an Android user, and I love Google.

        As for all the other objections people are raising: I highly doubt Google's goal here was to lose users. I'm not bashing them - I'm wondering what their strategy is here. Google offers *tonnes* of services that are expensive to maintain but don't make them much direct money, because Google tends to employ a castle/moat strategy.

        Now, if Google was for some reason hoping to drive users into the arms of OpenStreetMap, then that would change things... but I see no indication of that

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Apr 7th, 2012 @ 9:45am

        Re: Re: your argument makes no sense

        Hold on, I thought this site was bought and paid for by google? That's what all the shills keep telling me...Will you people make up your mind.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Leigh Beadon (profile), Apr 7th, 2012 @ 8:34am

      Re: your argument makes no sense

      you also said the switchers claimed cost wasnt a problem.

      ....that completely negates your point.


      I probably could have worded it better but: no, switchers ABSOLUTELY claimed cost was a problem. They just didn't say it was the *only* or *primary* problem - but it was a serious motivating factor in their decision.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 6th, 2012 @ 9:41pm

    Free is good and all, but Google has to make money somewhere. If sites aren't willing to at least post Google ads on their site, why should Google give them access to the API for maps for free? Wikipedia might be non-profit, but surely there are employees and executives at Wikipedia making good money. Wiki had giant banner ads for quite awhile begging for money, to me that's more annoying that a company charging for a service.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Dionaea (profile), Apr 7th, 2012 @ 1:06am

      Re:

      Did you even read what was under those banners? And do you seriously think running a free company costs no money? Not agreeing with Mike, fine, but attacking Wikipedia for switching services is unneccesary and stupid. If you're so insulted by their banners, go buy Encarta or Encyclopaedia Brittannica instead and STFU. I think wikipedia has a right to ask for donations from non-contributing freetards and the freetards have a right to not donate, not a right to nag about something they get for free.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 6th, 2012 @ 10:41pm

    This move could open up Google to some anti-trust in Europe since they came in free undercutting everyone else and now start charging, so the French companies maps suing Google there may get more out of this.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Michael Lockyear (profile), Apr 7th, 2012 @ 7:35am

      Allowing competitors a shot at the market actually reduces anti-trust issues (I think). As for France, Google should just shut their offices and see how the French like that.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Apr 7th, 2012 @ 9:26am

        Re:

        Yep, the thing is they will argue that Google offered the service for free waiting for them to fail to start charging.

        Intentionally or not the free service undermined the others and starting to charge for it can and probably will be seem as a trust issue.

        In the past companies used this same pattern to gain control of markets, outspending others and then raising prices when there was no one left. This definitely doesn't look good.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Apr 7th, 2012 @ 10:52am

          Re: Re:

          Except that Google started offering this service for free before most of the others started offering it at all and the ones that were offering it prior to Google entering the picture were also offering it for free.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          •  
            identicon
            Anonymous Coward, Apr 7th, 2012 @ 2:58pm

            Re: Re: Re:

            That is not correct.
            MapQuest web service since 1996.

            Multimap operated since 1997. (Acquired by Microsoft in 2007 and merged with Bing Maps)

            Pictometry International born in 2000(before Google Maps in 2005)

             

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          •  
            identicon
            Anonymous Coward, Apr 7th, 2012 @ 6:45pm

            Re: Re: Re:

            I've used Mapquest, for free, considerably before Google maps was around. And Microsoft Maps too, which (at least to the best of my experience at the time, unless someone else knows of another service) was the first to offer high resolution satellite views where you could see the cars on the streets. That was considerably before Google came around and I remember being amazed when Microsoft Maps came around and I could see cars on the streets of various locations including where I lived.

             

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            •  
              identicon
              Anonymous Coward, Apr 7th, 2012 @ 6:54pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re:

              I remember a friend of mine used to figure out when the satellite images were taken. We would consider time of day based on the apparent direction the sun reflected off the streets. We would consider things like street sweeping in general based on which side of the street each car was parked. We would consider who drove each car and during which time period did they own the car and live in the area (people move in and out), we would consider which cars were absent and figure out where that person was likely (ie: on this day during these time periods this person had work from this time to that time and this car is absent, that car is present indicating it must be during such and such time, etc...). It was a fun game we played and we did it for various familiar locations. We could narrow down the time that the satellite image was taken down to the month, day, and approximate time (morning, evening, afternoon, etc...). It was really cool, because later I remember finding some way to find when the picture was taken (I believe it was in the properties at the time or something) and we were right on the money too.

               

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Bastiat's Ghost, Apr 6th, 2012 @ 11:29pm

    Similar to what other comments have said, I tend to think Google might just be tired of hosting the service for it to be used in such a manner. If an alternative is superior and people want to use that instead and relieve Google of the burden, then I think Google is saying that is perfectly OK with them. If the current situation made economic sense to Google it would probably keep the status quo.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 6th, 2012 @ 11:33pm

    I think that this article misses the point in numerous ways, but I think it is important to note that this fee that google was administering only affects only a fraction of a percent of users- and these were generally businesses that used google maps to offer improved services. Google asking these people to pay a small fraction for using google's service seems extremely reasonable- saying that this was an anti-consumer move by implementing a price tag is a vast oversimplification- you act as if everyone was paying for google maps!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Dhananjay, Apr 7th, 2012 @ 1:10am

    Photofunia

    Photoediting

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Ryan Diederich (profile), Apr 7th, 2012 @ 3:46am

    Wow really

    I'm surprised so many commentators are attacking the author.

    Google is a business, it seems most it is ad revenue.

    Techdirt is also a business. Information propagation/discussion. Most of its revenue is from ads I'm sure. Start discussing or get off of here lol.

    That being said, this is a very interesting move on Google's part. While their overwhelmingly complete maps system has driven them search engine customers for years, the burden has finally reached that point.

    There are no ads on Google's maps, therefore it generates no direct revenue.

    Instead of adding ads to their maps (as they easily could have), they forced the world to provide maps for free.

    Now Google doesn't have to send gigantic chunks of visual data as often, saving server load.

    Unless another company starts driving around cars with panoramic cameras on top, you won't see street view anywhere soon. That fact will continue to drive customers to their platform, which is what they want.

    Google basically just agreed with an idea, that maps of the world should be free. Those who switch to open source will have to deal with ads. I for one am not to upset at this move.

    I continue to applaud Google for its innovation and business tactics. I also continue to dislike Google for its data mining and the fact that its WAY too big to fail.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Apr 7th, 2012 @ 4:30am

      Re: Wow really

      I suspect that API use of maps as an embedded part of other pages isn't a big driver of traffic for Google. They cannot easily put ads on the pages provided, etc. Unless people are actually (a) clicking the map to get the Google page with it on it, and then (b) doing something that triggers a search or other activity that might bring the user to a webpage with a Google ad, they are pretty much getting a free ride.

      Google maps is really suppose to be a value added service for Google users, and something that drives traffic to their site. If it provides a free service for someone else's visitors on someone else's site, and doesn't drive traffic, it's pretty much NOT what Google wants or needs the product to do. They are still allowing lower volume users to keep using it, and are only addressing certain high volume accounts.

      So if your API is serving full graphic pages, and is doing so with a low clickout rate, you are pretty much running a charity. That really isn't what Google is all about.

      Google agreed only that maps should be free provided it drives business to the rest of Google. They didn't agree to being everyone's favorite freeload service.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Apr 7th, 2012 @ 6:53am

      Re: Wow really

      " I'm surprised so many commentators are attacking the author. "

      Don't be. Happens a lot around here. Especially when they have no real feedback on the subject. Ad hom appears to be the sole debate tactic used by AA supporters.

      As for google maps ?
      It really wouldn't surprise me if google wasn't planning some sort of lawsuit based on a bullshit patent or some twisted variation of copyright law. This seems to be the way to go when a competitor appears. Google has the financial muscle to do this, regardless of the actual merits and basically run the free competitor into the ground. It wouldn't be the first time a large corp did this and got away with it. If this is the case I would not applaud this particular tactic.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Apr 7th, 2012 @ 8:12am

        Re: Re: Wow really

        Except that Google doesn't have much of a history of doing that. Largely their patent holdings have been used defensively.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      MikeVx (profile), Apr 7th, 2012 @ 7:44pm

      Re: Streetview

      Unless another company starts driving around cars with panoramic cameras on top, you won't see street view anywhere soon.

      Provided that they could deal with the data traffic, OSM could crowdsource the streetview process. I could easily take pictures of both sides of the street that I am on, for the whole block, in about 10 minutes. The full panoramic process might not be manageable, but I could easily do a series of 8-compass-point shots of streets in my area.

      How someone could stitch all this together, that I'm not sure about, but getting a reasonable amount of data should not be that difficult.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      John Fenderson (profile), Apr 19th, 2012 @ 1:15pm

      Re: Wow really

      Unless another company starts driving around cars with panoramic cameras on top, you won't see street view anywhere soon.


      And thank god. It's bad enough that Google does it.

      Those who switch to open source will have to deal with ads.


      This doesn't follow. That something is open source says nothing about the revenue model of companies who use it.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Badita Florin, May 2nd, 2012 @ 3:29pm

      Re: Wow really

      There is already a company that does that in Europe, it`s called norc.ro

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Ryan Diederich (profile), Apr 7th, 2012 @ 3:53am

    and BTW

    Techdirt isn't in the business of "making a point".

    That's called politics, and I'm hoping its the next bubble to pop.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Apr 7th, 2012 @ 3:52pm

      Re: and BTW

      "Techdirt isn't in the business of "making a point"."

      Apparently you have been reading some other site. Techdirt is all about making a point, and supporting Mike's political views and public speaking career. This site is often a public testing of the themes and ideas he will use in his next speaking engagement.

      Techdirt is all about "making a point".

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      John Fenderson (profile), Apr 19th, 2012 @ 1:17pm

      Re: and BTW

      Techdirt isn't in the business of "making a point".


      Actually, it is. This is called out specifically on the site's about page. Techdirt is an opinion blog (opinions are all about making a point) that centers on the intersection of politics, technology, and society.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Pixelation, Apr 7th, 2012 @ 4:35am

    Something else?

    I found this bit from the Observer article interesting...
    "In the early days you needed a GPS, but today, Microsoft, where I now work, donates all its aerial imagery to OpenStreetMap so you can just look at aerial pictures and draw the features on top of them."
    Microsoft being generous or something else?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Viln (profile), Apr 7th, 2012 @ 7:20am

      Re: Something else?

      Interesting. So the question: How long will OpenStreetMap allow their services and bandwidth be used for free by other companies to make money off of consumers? ... may really boil down to "How long will the Google competitors supporting this endeavor help subsidize the shift in power?"

      It will take many, many years for Google to lose the general audience on Google Maps. People are still using AOL while on broadband... there's really no other explanation than extreme consumer inertia. Losing the big companies is definitely a PR hit and results in less visibility, but I'm sure they crunched the numbers. As long as Google Maps is fully integrated with the rest of their products, and as long as they don't fall too far behind OSM in terms of usability and features, they're probably just waiting for the competitors to feel the pain of having to provide free maps while other companies use them to get rich.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        icon
        John Fenderson (profile), Apr 19th, 2012 @ 1:21pm

        Re: Re: Something else?

        How long will OpenStreetMap allow their services and bandwidth be used for free by other companies to make money off of consumers?


        It doesn't matter. The map data is the important part, and that is covered by a CC license. That means that other people will (and probably already do) offer up map servers. If the OpenStreetMap servers went away, there will be other servers offering the same thing.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 7th, 2012 @ 5:41am

    Funnily enough I've recently moved away from google maps due to the poor quality results and over simplified maps for the UK. Quite often I search for an exact postcode and get a really inaccurate result back. Bing and other competitors don't seem to have this problem.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Mir, Apr 7th, 2012 @ 7:42am

    no big deal

    I think Google maps is pioneer and leader in mapping. They have a great service.. If you need a simple and free map, there are many alternatives, not just openstreetmap. but users will prefer strengths and superior features of google maps..

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Ed (profile), Apr 7th, 2012 @ 7:50am

    accuracy

    All I need to see is the fact that I can put my address into OpenStreetMaps (on the most populous street in Atlanta GA USA) and it comes back with nothing, saying there is no such address. I put it in Google Maps and I can even get a Street View of my building. And if I manually find my location on OpenStreetMaps and have it identify the location, it is wrong by a huge margin (many many miles).

    I don't think Google has much to worry about here.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 7th, 2012 @ 9:54am

    Google benefits from api use in a number of ways, these all help their advertising arms. They get a copy and are allowed all rights to use whatever data is shown on it. They get information about what people are showing where on the maps. Good example is four square, it's like the, giving them their analytics and place database for free.

    Google differentiates itself from openstreetmap, through streetview, geocoding, place and business api, google earth 3d maps, and now indoor mapping.

    Google maps is one of the most popular google services, and they are quite sensibly going to charge for its use in a commercial setting.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 7th, 2012 @ 10:06am

    On other news mole Britons get frustrated and start digging.

    Quote:
    A community in the north of England has decided to dig up the ground so they can lay their own superfast broadband network after becoming fed up waiting for private companies to install it in their area.

    Volunteers with spades are taking turns digging a 51 mile (83 km) long trench, which will connect several villages in Lancashire to fibre-optic cables in Manchester.

    Digging for superfast broadband and other tech news

    Now that is a motivated bunch.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    DRG (profile), Apr 7th, 2012 @ 11:21am

    Switched to MapQuest

    I had a project that required getting 780,000 zipcode-to-zipcode driving times to determine who could be recruited to visit a given hospital into a clinical trial. I programmed both Google and MapQuest queries and found MapQuest to be 5 times faster and they wouldn't charge to use it. I emailed them as requested to let them know what I was planning. They said to please only use two parallel queries at a time. Four days later I was done. My research goes on.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Rekrul, Apr 7th, 2012 @ 11:27am

    I just looked at the OpenStreetMap site, and I didn't see any way to switch to satellite photos, or plan routes between two points, which is something I use Google maps for fairly frequently.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    mr. sim (profile), Apr 7th, 2012 @ 1:14pm

    google is maximizing profits by removing those who use the high volume service and building up a competitor's share so that they can't be sued under monopoly laws for providing something for free.

    just as planned.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      medlaw, Apr 7th, 2012 @ 3:07pm

      Re: agree with Mr. Sim

      IMHO, Google did a cost-benefit analysis and decided the high volume users were losing them money so they decided to monetize or force them out. Google is a lot of things but stupid is not one of them. Perhaps the decision is short sighted but I have to believe this move was well thought out from a revenue standpoint.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 7th, 2012 @ 2:08pm

    Businesses benefit a lot from Google maps. I look up a business I can quickly find its location and phone number (well, maybe some businesses don't want to make it easy for you to locate their contact information because they have to pay people to answer phones?) and I can even know there is a business in this particular location and what it does.

    Google could maybe find a way to monetize this. Give businesses some extra benefit to Google maps. Perhaps location specific ads? Or maybe a way to click on a business and get a description that the business has access to and can update, it can include specials (kinda like when you drive by a business you can see posters and whatnot on the business regarding its specials) the description appearing right in the Google maps GUI. In return, the business can pay a small yearly fee for having such access. It could be better than just an open forum where anyone can edit a description and sales specials including those who don't belong to the business. I know, these are just brainstorming ideas, and I'm sure Google and others have tried similar things already with editable descriptions so most of these ideas are nothing new, but maybe something could come out of it.

    Businesses benefit from Google maps because they get access to customers who look up their location. If Google could offer them some benefit to customer access for a small fee ...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    CraigRat, Apr 7th, 2012 @ 8:20pm

    It was inevitable.

    Think of how many map API calls something like ForeSquare or WikiPedia make.....
    Literally tens to hundreds of millions of hits without ANY of the revenue getting back to Google.

    Google do not push any form of advertising or anything they can gain revenue from via the API, therefore what is in it for them serve up data costing real money to these services.

    The beauty of OSM is not the map tiles per-se, it's the data. Sites can periodically grab the updated data and generate their own map tiles in their own style and not put that great a load on the OSM infrastructure.
    Pity not a lot of them are doing this.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    ChronoFish (profile), Apr 8th, 2012 @ 4:10am

    Not so fast....

    Google still allows (several of) their APIs to be used for free. In fact their free versions don't even require a key.

    What requires a key is Google Earth - which is free "to a point" and their mobile api which is much more limited.

    This makes sense to me. The free API drive traffic to Google's sites and ad revenue. The pay-for APIs are really targeting the Apples and other large users - and as stated by previous posters - Google doesn't benefit from supporting their largest competitors who are not also driving ad-revenue back to them.

    Also, not sure about the rest of the users here.... I'm not seeing the Exodus. Every once in a while I see a Bling map - and that is really it. And no one has an API that is as fast or as polished as Google's (and yes I'm talking about Google's free service) or as supported by such a huge developers community.

    Every successful company will have its haters. But it's sad to see hating just because of success. Google's not abusing its power here, and I think they are well aware of where their success comes from - which parallels very closely the values found here on Techdirt.

    -CF

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Gwyneth Llewelyn (profile), Oct 3rd, 2012 @ 3:22am

      Re: Not so fast....

      Yes to "nobody has an API that is [...] as supported by such a huge developers community", but no to "as fast" or "as polished" :-)

      Also, what is more important from the perspective of the end-user having the most wonderful API of the world (which will only be relevant to developers) or having content-rich maps, crammed full of information?

      And finally, having taken a look at some weird ways of adding map locations using the Google Maps API, it made my eyes water in frustration. Sure, embedding a map is the simplest thing in the universe. Making calls through the Google Maps API is... well, I'd say, "acceptable and reasonable". Not "excellent".

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Sinan Unur (profile), Apr 8th, 2012 @ 4:32am

    Some incumbents have armed protection

    The real lesson here is that there's never an incumbent that isn't at risk of being unseated, no matter how widespread the adoption of their product or service


    That is essentially true in the marketplace. In fact, the bigger the profits a company is milking by exploiting its size and dominance, the greater the incentive for others to come up with a replacement, or close enough substitute.

    The one exception to this are incumbents that are "regulated" by a government. In most cases, this means they have the government given right to be the sole provider of something in return for oversight by politicians or bureaucrats with regard to price and service levels.

    In all cases, this leads to inflated prices, and bad service as the "regulated" firm uses the police powers of the state to keep competitors out, and establishes prices by bargaining with said politicians and bureaucrats then in response to competition and consumer choice.

    Therefore, the only regulation in public interest is to keep to ensure free entry and exit in competitive markets.

    We the people might recognize that market monopolies are temporary. Government monopolies last much longer, and damage a lot more.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2012 @ 3:18pm

    Google is planning to shove everyone off their maps, then when Google Maps is empty, they'll shut it down to do a complete overhaul and upgrade. Then they'll buy out OpenStreetMap, and integrate it into the new Google Maps, thereby reasserting their lead with a new next-gen mapping system.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    TtfnJohn (profile), Apr 19th, 2012 @ 10:00am

    The problem for vendors like OpenStreetMap and MapQuest is that, like it or not, Google Maps has become normative which is different than being a monopoly. For example it doesn't come preinstalled on a PC like Windows does which has made it harder (next to impossible) for a competing OS to compete.

    On trying OpenStreetMap I found an immediate problem where the Map moved my house a half mile from where it actually is. Kinda reminds me of MS's mapping software!
    I found MapQuest hard to use in that once I turned a feature on I couldn't turn it off. That's probably unfamiliarity with MapQuest more than a bug/feature. At least it got my house in the right location!

    Yes, I can see Google wanting to charge heavy users of the system a fee-for-access. While I don't see it as being wrong from what I'm reading they could have found a couple of hundred ways of communicating it better to customers like Wikipedia who may have been one of the largest generators of traffic to Google Maps and may have had to pay under the existing structure.

    Google Maps has been monetized for years, even if it's hard to see. Each of those little pointers to businesses, churches and other locations such as museums are paid for. In their way they're ads, often invaluable, to the businesses they point to.

    It's ironic that one project that's charging for access now, Google Maps, is being dropped by another that Google sponsors, Android, because of the additional costs.

    My, admittedly, quick experiences with OpenStreetMap and MapQuest do illustrate one thing clearly and that's what I said at the top of this post. Google Maps are normative. People are used to it and how it works and, worse for OpenStreetMap and MapQuest, the information it contains which is nothing short of enormous.

    It's not that people will reject either in the long run. The Phone directory publisher in Canada has used MapQuest for years, for example.

    This leaves me to wonder if Google won't reverse itself or revise the pricing structure in order to being some of the fleeing customers/users back.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    lrobbo (profile), Jun 7th, 2012 @ 9:00am

    Again, Google = Greed. Happy to hear this.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Gwyneth Llewelyn (profile), Oct 3rd, 2012 @ 3:17am

    Not only that, but also terms of service issues...

    I know this article is a bit "old", as news go. In the mean time we've all heard about the Apple fiasco around their own mapping application. But it was what lead me to recover the password for my old OpenStreetMap account and start adding more geographic data.

    I found that since the time I had logged in last to OSM 18 months ago! the sheer amount of information has been overwhelming. In one case, after editing a small section (where I happen to live), it was almost scary to see how my neighbours were doing the same from pretty much just the street layout, in less than 48 hours, a suburb with 18.000 residents was mapped to a level of detail that most applications cannot even display (e.g. like showing tiny walls and hedges between individual family homes :) ). Obviously, the million people submitting geo data to OSM are doing a great job, slowly beating Google with their "few hundreds" of employees working specifically on Google Maps and having access to unlimited searching and cross-indexing power, and, of course, billions of US$ to buy geo databases from zillions of providers. Nevertheless, a million people can really do a great job.

    But it's not only that. With the licensing changes, some things started to become questionable using Google Maps. Sure, if I put a Google Map on my (free) blog, that's fine. There might be a limit, but few people visit my blog daily, so I don't bother. But what if I put the same map on my corporate website? Theoretically, since I'm not making money from the site itself, this is fine for Google. But indirectly, by attracting people to my company, who will in turn make my company earn money, Google's licensing terms might apply. Or, if they don't, I might need a lawyer to explain that to Google.

    Tricky.

    But it gets worse. On one site for a customer, they have an application to list events (and their locations). Most events are free to attend. I'm using a plugin to manage all events and, of course, display a Google Map. But my customer also has a few paid events, and at some point, they will need to upgrade this plugin to allow registration and payment. The upgrade costs money, and the company providing the upgrade makes a living out of their "freemium" plugin that way. My customer, in turn, using this plugin, will be able to earn money from events. So who is violating Google Maps' terms of service then? Me, as a developer? The company providing a paid plugin that uses Google Maps? My customer who sells access to events and uses Google Maps to display maps next to the event venue locations?

    Trickier.

    So having all this in mind, obviously I'm not complaining about Google. They're a business, and they're tired of having start-ups building upon their freely available information which takes billions to maintain and get rich without paying Google anything. The same happened to Google Translator as well, but mapping might be even more serious so many people are touting mobile integration with mapping as the best use case for mobile apps, and so many use Google's resources for free, that Google had to put a full stop to it. It's understandable. As Ryan so well puts it, Google doesn't place ads inside Maps, so "someone" has to pay Google for their willingness to provide so much cool information. That is now the case with their new licensing terms. But it means that if you're not willing to pay Google "something", you have to use some alternative instead or face possible exclusion by Google, if they figure out you're providing paid services on top of their free maps.

    @TtfnJohn you're right about being "normative". However, your argument that OpenStreetMap "[...] moved my house a half mile from where it actually is" doesn't hold! Just log in to OSM and move your house back to where it belongs! That's the advantage of OSM: you don't need anyone to "correct" your data for you (like most commercial map providers do and like Apple's messy use of TomTom data!). You just log in, use a very simple online mapping tool (Potlatch 2), and just correct what's wrong. Very easy. It takes a few seconds to move a house around. After a few hours, the OSM map caches will be flushed and the new data will be public. What could be simpler than that?

    In fact, I do that all the time, specially when working with maps for customers. Their location seems empty? No landmarks are visible on the map to help potential visitors figure out where to find your location? No problem. Log in to OSM and add all the relevant data. Even if it takes a few hours, so what? Once it's there, everybody can see it. In fact, this perfectly egoistic view of OSM (just add what is relevant to YOU!) actually works wonderfully, since a million volunteers are adding what is relevant to THEM, and, through that, beating any other freely available map provider in terms of detail.

    Oh, and there is a nice extra feature, too. Since OSM is not a "one-size-fits-all" technology, but rather a lot of technologies working together, even if a customer complains and says "Google Maps have a much better way of drawing maps!" you're not limited to use a "default" provided by the OSM main site. You can style them yourself and, if you're lazy, you can use any of gazillions of different styles that are freely available, many of which look so much like Google Maps that they're undistinguishable at a first glance, except, of course, that they will have massive amounts of more information.

    And if they don't, why worry? Just add the information yourself.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This