A reason for social mapping

Dare has one good point and one bad point about the new google mymaps feature that we've had for a while. 

Source: Dare Obasanjo aka Carnage4Life - Google MyMaps vs. Frappr: A Feature Isn't a Business

As usual the reactions from the blog pundits are equal parts surprising and unsurprising to me. The unsurprising bit is that I didn't find anyone who compared this to the collections feature of MSN Virtual Earth Windows Live Local Live Search Maps Live Maps which can be viewed at http://collections.live.com. I'm sure when the "Web 2.0" pundits eventually discover we have this feature it will be claimed we copied it from Google. 🙂

When are people going to stop giving google credit for everything?  How long will the web honeymoon last?  This is one area that we were not copycats... they were.  Lets give credit where credit is due here.

On the other hand what I did find surprising were blog posts like Google Launches MyMaps - Platial Gets Screwed and My Maps at Google: Is Google Doing a Microsoft? from Pete Cashmore and Paul Kedrosky which complained that Google was killing "social mapping" startups like Platial and Frappr with this move. Ignoring that "social mapping" seems like a silly product category in the first place, I wonder what exactly is wrong with this move. Some startups point out consumer demand for certain features from online mapping sites (i.e. missing features) and the consumer mapping sites add the features.

I have one use for social mapping services, but it's going to require a feature that neither google or live maps support today. I want to make it easy for people to share road bike routes with one another. To do this you have to be able to define custom routes between markers and generate good printouts with the directions, pictures, and comments about the routes.  It's not good enough to just map the best path between two stops since you really want more flexibility to say... not take the highway when you are on a road bike.  Then people can collaborate to build some really cool bike routes based on revisions to other routes.

Comments (5)

  1. Peter Ritchie says:

    That’s a great idea.  Something like, here’s a mapXML file for the route, load it into your mapping provider to have a look.

  2. Erik Porter says:

    I think part of the problem of why people jump on Google doing that stuff (besides their unconditional love for them) is that they present themselves and their new information differently than Microsoft does.  They let the world know about new features that had via a single blog.  I’m sure Microsoft announces things through different blogs, but since there are so many of them, the viewership for each one is a lot lower.  I’m not really sure there’s anything we can do about that (Microsoft is a much bigger company), but still I think that’s part of the reason.

    Re: bike route idea – Yah, that’s a really good idea!  It would make it a lot easier for people to do things like this guy did:


  3. pbh says:

    Sounds like you’re looking for Google Earth.  You can easily make routes and share with others via KML files.  Google Earth provides the GUI to write the KML, but you could hand-code it too, for finer control of subtleties.

    Google Earth has support for placemarks, paths, and polygons, though you’ll need to pony up ~$20 for Google Earth Plus in order to get the paths GUI, I’m pretty sure (the free client can view any file).

    Hope that helps!


  4. PaulWh says:

    Do you use Bikely.com? Its great for creating/sharing bike routes. It allows you to create routes manually (drawing) or from GPS data. You can annotate the path with detailed directions (unfortunately no picture support  yet). Routes can be tagged, and people can comment on routes. I’m not sure about printing though.

    I do think Dare is right that there isn’t anything wrong with Google or MS adding features that may obsolete some start-ups mash-up. You can’t expect an app to have every feature from the get go, and it would be stifle of innovation and competition if once one company implemented a feature, no other company implemented a similar feature. Who wants to use a different web app for each mapping feature (we’d all still be using mapquest for driving directions)?

    There is certainly space for companies implementing "missing features" based on the big boys’ apps, but those companies have to expand and be more agile, since the big companies are always going to be catching up.

  5. MSDNArchive says:

    PBH: I’m not sure why I need a client app like google earth to solve this problem. If I can store collections of locations online not sure why I couldn’t create a simple custom route between points in the same way.

    Paul:  Yup, Bikely is almost exactly what I’m looking for. I’ll have to try it out to see if the route creation and printing is as simple as I’m looking at.

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