mnot’s blog

Design depends largely on constraints.” — Charles Eames

Thursday, 1 July 2004


Internet Mapping For the Little Guy

When Tim O’Reilly gave his keynote at eWorld this year, one of his major points was that Internet-based mapping (e.g., Yahoo maps, Mapquest) had failed to take off, despite their obvious utility, because they were walled gardens; unlike eBay and Amazon, they don’t integrate user data and third-party applications very well.

For example, if I want to put maps of things on my Web site, I can only do what amounts to a cut-and-paste; I can’t layer in my own information (unless I happen to be a multi-billion dollar company). O’Reilly’s point was that they failed to leverage the community, and therefore the network effects brought by massive participation passed them by.

This appears to be changing, thankfully. From Newsweek:

Companies like Keyhole hope to become the substratum upon which all this information is layered—fighting Microsoft, ESRI and others for the honor. (Keyhole CEO John Hanke boasts that it already has a program to allow amateurs to post their own layers to the maps.)

It’s a shame that they’re PC-only right now; they really need to push the Web side; it’d be huge.

See also MetaCarta.


Tim O'Reilly said:

I didn’t say that they’d failed to take off – they are very widely used. What I said is that MapQuest, the original innovator, had failed to secure a dominant position because its product was fundamentally a commodity. It is by leveraging user contribution to create unique added value that companies differentiate themselves in the internet era. if MapQuest had had a huge database of customer data, rather than just the raw mapping data, it would have been much harder for new entrants to compete.

Thursday, July 1 2004 at 9:51 AM