What a conundrum. You develop a great piece of social software for sharing photos on the web, so good in fact that users spontaneously hack your tagging system to allow the easy addition of georeferencing information via the API and the visualization of these photos on a competitor’s map (via its great API). Other photo sharing sites are beginning to eye built-in georeferencing as a way to compete with you. To remain competitive, would you:
- Hire the most impressive of these spontaneous geohackers, and give this flourishing geotagging folksonomy an institutional backing? In-house mapping tools would make it extremely intuitive for anyone to georeference photos, but the results would still be compatible with the geotagging standard, so that the effort put into hundreds of thousands of photos is built upon, rather than supplanted.
- Hire the most impressive of these spontaneous geohackers, and have him build a brand new georeferencing system from scratch? This way, the technology is optimised from the get-go for georeferencing, rather than have to piggyback on tags. For example, it allows for separate privacy settings for photos and their geospatial data. Of course, the geotags on hundreds of thousands of photos on your site will be de facto deprecated, leaving those users with a geotagging “inventory” the choice of continuing with geotags or starting over with the new system…
I myself would have chosen the first option. Flickr clearly chose the latter one. Perhaps all the benefits of option 2 are not yet apparent, but what I hope will happen soon is the following:
Somebody offers a conversion utility that converts a user’s geotags to the new Yahoo! system.[Flickr has — see comments] Or vice versa, for that matter. (I’m surprised Flickr didn’t do this by default. Geotags are public anyway, and it would have given their new system a running start.)
- Flickr KML Feed and Yuan CC maps are adapted to work with the new Flickr system. I want my Flickr photos in Google Earth, absent Yahoo! Earth.
- Flickr’s georeferencing system gains features quickly to include some of the innovations being made with geotags, such as FlickrFly’s expanded geotag vocabulary.
As an aside, it is interesting to see how Yahoo! and Google have differentiated themselves when it comes to georereferencing photos. Google’s solution is a tie-up between Picasa and Google Earth — both of them standalone applications. Yahoo!, in contrast, relies on two web-based services. Each solution has strong points: For Google, this allows for a far better editing feature set (Picasa) and visualization (Google Earth). For Yahoo!, the integration between Maps and Flickr is far tighter, allowing for such features as batch georeferencing and privacy levels for georeferencing.
PS: I’m traveling again, this time back to Stockholm, and then I’ll be apartment-hunting, so my access to the internet, and hence to this blog, may again be extremely spotty for a while.