Flat Earths

Via The Map Room: Yahoo releases its competitor to Google Maps and MS Virtual Earth, but Microsoft’s Robert Scoble calls both Microsoft’s and Yahoo’s efforts doomed. Why? He says it’s because Google is disrupting everything with their advertising business model — the more people use Google Maps, the better it is for Google’s bottom line (whereas Yahoo has limits on use, showing that they see their maps as a cost burden, not a revenue opportunity.)

The Map Room highlights Scoble’s reasons for why the masher-uppers have gravitated to Google — advertising opportunities and licencing restrictions of competitors. Reading Scoble’s entire post (do so), I kept on thinking he was missing an obvious point, but perhaps it’s only obvious from over here. His second commenter nails it, though. Virtual Earth and especially the new Yahoo maps are useless anywhere outside the US. And a large minority, if it isn’t a majority, of mash-up artistes are non-American, and hence so are their mashups. Other mashups are truly global in scope, and there is only one offering that can help you there: Google’s. Google is the only one getting a boost from the network effect here. It’s had this advantage now for over 6 months. In Virtual Earth Europe still looks like a JMW Turner painting seen from across the room. Try making Maplandia out of that.

Google Maps doesn’t have maps either for areas outside the US, Canada, Great Britain and Japan, but it has glorious high-resolution satellite imagery plucked straight from Google Earth. Google Earth, of course, is even better — it already has a pan-European road atlas built in. Above all, though, it is a globe, and that globe drives home with every twirl that the dataset is global. If you were to paint Yahoo’s current offering onto a globe, it’d cover less than a quarter of it.

When Yahoo, Microsoft, ESRI et. al. produce worthy competitors to Google’s free 2D and 3D offerings in terms of content, then we can start talking hackability, revenue and licencing. But until then, for the rest of the world, this riddle isn’t really that hard.

3 thoughts on “Flat Earths”

  1. But Yahoo has a partner in Mapquest, and MS has Mappoint. Don’t know if they are buying satellite imagery, but on maps and plans, they may have plenty of opoortunities. The problem with Yahoo’s API is another one: only for personal user. But idea: commercial prospects are big to generate big mashup ideaS.

  2. Yahoo’s browser looks like a really clunky recompile of a pre-beta Google Maps. Is that really the best they can do? Come on, Yahoo. This is clearly the next step, Google is about to take over the search industry completely, get on the ball before it’s too late! Buy the datasets, and rush a web app through production.

    I think the first one to market with a multi-platform, open-source 3D KML browser will win. It could even be written in Shockwave or Java so it would work within a conventional browser; as long as they make it completely open-source, people will start writing cool hacks for it, it’ll become the most popular, and its proprietor can leverage it.

    Yahoo is a distant third-runner and this is the new way information will be organized. It’s the Web 2.0 …if Yahoo doesn’t come out with something BETTER than their competitors already have, they’re going the way of Atari, and fast.

  3. Heartily second Josh’s comment regarding the poor quality and usability of Yahoo maps versus Google maps.

    Apparently a lot of the pundits have been lost beneath the interface, delving into ones and zeros, or exploring the business interlinks between companies.

    The salient point is, how ever, Yahoo maps is like a kids’ coloring book in terms of functionality next to Google maps and Google Earth … the Yahoo Maps interface has hardly changed in three years, indicating they just want to milk out the cash cow and haven’t had any significant efforts in program development in a long time.

    Best regards


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