Google has done a fabulous job of distinguishing Google Maps from competing solutions made by rivals like MapQuest and Yahoo. The app has added so many new features over the years, it truly stands out as a virtual mapping solution all its own. Aside from being an application that helps consumers find their way around the world, Google Maps has also proved to be a very useful business tool. Yet some of its biggest business users are pulling out and saying “no” to the interactive mapping platform.
It all started with Foursquare, which said it would be dropping the application in favor of something that better suits its needs. Next to ditch Google Maps was Apple, which specifically stopped using it to power select features in its iOS app iPhoto. So what caused these two well known powerhouses to defect?
Foursquare had been integrating its location-based service with the Google Maps API from the very beginning. While the company decided to go with OpenStreetMap, a newer mapping solution that supposedly works perfect when integrated with the map designs of MapBox’s technology, pricing appears to be what drove it away from Google Maps.
Cost Changes Everything
When Google first got its start in the digital mapping game, it was offering its Map service totally free of charge. This approach gave it a huge edge over competitors such as Navteq and TeleNav, who demanded a fee for their technology. Slowly but surely, Maps became a force in the marketplace and soon enough, Google had gained the traction needed to start monetizing the service through its top money-making mechanism – advertising.
Google kicked off its monetizing initiative by requiring all businesses that used Google Maps to display advertisements to their end users. But that was only the beginning. In October 2011, the company introduced an all new pricing structure, marking the first time it would require a fee for commercial usage. While the app can still be used freely for basic needs, businesses that are generating more than 25,000 map loads a day must pay $10 to $40 for each additional load. Now while the average small business is unlikely to have that type of volume, companies such as Foursquare and Apple have massive user bases capable of exceeding it rather quickly.
Speaking of Apple, it decided to ditch Google Maps just in time for the launch of its third generation iPad. Regular users of iPhoto will notice that the program’s map labeling feature looks much different on the new iPad. Apple made the change without uttering a word, but Google’s new pricing arrangement could be the motivation. How could it not be when Apple chose the same alternative mapping solution as Foursquare?
New Digital Mapping Options on the Rise
Just like Foursquare, Apple chose OpenStreetMap to power the digital mapping functionality in the iPad’s version of iPhoto. OpenStreetMap is a community driven project that provides users with a map of the world. As an open-source application under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 license, it is fully customizable and free to use for non-commercial and commercial purposes.
Maybe the new pricing structure is scaring companies away. Or maybe it’s the expansion of Google’s advertising vision. Whatever the case, Google Maps is losing the support of some of its most high profiled businesses and their legions of users. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues and results in more notable defections.