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.