Google recently announced its Map Maker tool, (in the words of OSM) “a kind of faux Open Street Map.” On the surface, the idea is clear–have users make contributions, as they know local geography better than anybody else. An excerpt from the OSM blog post today:
Like Knol, the mooted ‘wikipedia killer’, Google refuse to acknowledge existing communities, trample on their hard work and lack the mindset to engage with an open project.
But, this really doesn’t matter.
What’s fascinating is that they haven’t set themselves up against OpenStreetMap so much but rather TeleAtlas/TomTom, NAVTEQ/Nokia and AND. This is really a swipe at things like TomTom’s MapShare(TM) and ANDs Map 2.0. The question is now going to be, when do they switch on editing of existing data markets, if at all? Only those with intimate knowledge of the contracts will know.
The fundamental reasons for OpenStreetMap remain intact and if anything are now stronger. At first glance it sounds like OpenStreetMap, until you realise that Google own that data you give them, there’s no community and you are unlikely to see use of the data in ‘creative, productive, or unexpected ways’.
The pattern with Google is by now well-understood. Given their massive scale, subsidizing such efforts is trivial. Gmail, Google Apps and other products follow this model. It won’t have any kind of material impact in the immediate future, and that’s why the US airline industry ignored jetBlue. Whoops.
Umibot’s not preaching conspiratorial here–what Google is doing is great for satisficing the masses–much of the nuance is lost, but in return millions of users get something they can use. Of course they don’t own that contribution and Google (and of course others exist) is able to build out more page views, resulting in more advertising, more revenue, and so on…
Urban Mapping now finds its first customer competing against our first product. It isn’t that Google can do neighborhoods ‘better’ than UMI (or anybody else), it’s the idea that Google doesn’t need anybody else to do it for them. In fact, they don’t need to do it themselves–throw it over to a fanatical user base, and watch them diligently work away, and allow the new Microsoft to reap the rewards. If Umibot were a thinking human, no doubt it would be saying “these guys are smart.”