Google Maps is starting to see some high-profile defections. The first was Foursquare, which revealed last week it was dropping Google Maps from its Web-based offering. This week, Foursquare was joined by Apple, which has abandoned Google Maps in iPhoto for iOS (specifically the new Journals and slideshow features).
Why are high-profile companies defecting from Google Maps?
Everyone is leaving Google Maps!
Geoff did a pretty good job lining out why people are choosing to leave Google Maps. I talked a bit about it a couple weeks ago as well. Geoff says the price of Google was the key reason why companies picked Google. I’d like to disagree with him there. Free is nice, but there are other services out there that are free and have been free. I think companies use Google Maps because the API is great, the speed of the service is very fast and people expect to see Google tiles on your website or app. In fact I’m reading a bit of blowback on Apple for even thinking of replacing Google’s tiles because people are comfortable with them.
So really it comes down to this myth that Google Maps is the standard and if you don’t use Google, you run the risk of people complaining. I’m just not sure that is the case though. As I said earlier, companies picked Google over Bing and other because the API was so easy to implement. While many can create their own tile sets, they don’t want to bother maintaining them. How to you handle updates to the map and tweaks to the symbology while you are trying to actually maintain your existing business? You don’t, that’s why you outsource it to Google.
Most of the web smells like Google doesn’t it?
Cloudmade was a bit early on the trend starting to appear. Companies creating APIs around OpenStreetMap data and giving users the ability to easily change between mapping APIs. When Google was basically free, nobody was interested in changing their code to point to a new mapping API. But now, even though Google Maps is still dirt cheap, the “pain” of moving from Google to another service isn’t an issue. These new APIs are just as easy to use as Google and give the users of them more freedom to customize the maps the way they want. So now we are seeing some companies (high profile ones, though as competitors to Google they may have business reasons to leave) migrating.
So back to the Google Maps as a standard. I wouldn’t consider Google Maps a standard any more than I’d consider Internet Explorer a browser standard. People and companies choose both for various business reasons. And they switch between them at will because it is easy to do so. It is only a matter of time before we see some company eventually move back to Google for some business reason. This shouldn’t be surprising, there is not much difficulty changing web mapping APIs anymore.
What we are seeing is people looking at web mapping again and taking an interest in how it looks, what its capabilities are and how it runs on mobile devices. That’s a huge win for all of us as competition is only going to drive Google Maps, Bing Maps, OpenStreetMap, MapBox and even Esri to give developers a better choice to integrate with their applications.
My friends, we are now in the golden age of web mapping. Enjoy it!