Open Source Mapping Posing Questions for Future
Ryan Buddenhagen, March 14, 2012
In yesterday's post, I discussed open source mapping and how both Apple and Foursquare dropped Google Maps as their mapping provider. Both have gone to open source solutions with Apple using OpenStreetMap and Foursquare using MapBox. I finished yesterday's post with the questions -how is the emergence of open source mapping impacting the sector, and second, how would a mapping service by Apple further impact the sector and SEO? Let's address these.
Open Source Mapping
In a broad sense, open source mapping is making it easier for companies and organizations across sectors to map open data extending what they are able to do with the information they gather. A great piece here discusses the background of the technology and how organizations are putting available tools to use to support their mission. As open data and mapping advance further, tech companies will look to integrate these mapping platforms into their interface and to illustrate their data. As such, more mobile apps that are centered on location-mapping will switch to an open format as an increasing number of these companies may find that the functionality of other mapping platforms fits their purposes better than Google Maps. Further, Google's API pricing is only pushing these companies away.
Looking at this in international terms, with these open source mapping platforms operating in international markets, they may run into the same trouble that Google did in France with offering mapping services for free as described in this IB Times piece. Before fully expanding operations, these companies should address how their open source model would function within the regulations in place in each context.
An Alternative From Apple?
Addressing Apple, the most valuable company in the world could create a mapping alternative that they would use in all their programs and devices in the years to come (based on recent acquisitions discussed in the previous post). Such a platform could be used by other companies on desktops, apps, and for mobile, and in time, could take general relevance as well as SEO and local search worth from Google Maps and Google Places. A competitive alternative map platform could grow in importance for supplying local search results. However, the possibility of that happening is made very difficult by the fact that such searches are usually initiated via a standard search engine query which users usually go to Google to do.
Such an alternative platform would have to be sought out in its own right as Google would not likely give a map result from a competitor before a Google Maps one. Thus, it would be difficult for a new platform to gain exposure and use. As a result, a viable alternative to Google Maps for search engine optimization value from Apple or anyone else is by no means going to happen anytime soon, but it deserves a mention considering the particular strength of the Apple brand and their recent actions toward digital mapping, most notably the acquisitions. In the meantime, the reality is that Google is the dominant player and companies should be optimizing their Google Places and Google+ accounts for SEO gain.