Google Maps’ Moat is Evaporating

The race is on, and it’s all against one. Photo by Chris Kendall on Unsplash
Courtesy of Justin’s phenomenal blog (last updated just this month):

Fear and Loathing in Mountain View

It’s hard to knock Big G. They’re still the biggest and best — a Morgan Stanley analyst estimated that Google Maps generated almost $3B in advertising revenue in 2019 alone. But I suspect we’re at the tail end of the golden era for Google Maps. They appear, to me, to be acting from a place of fear and conservatism rather than innovation.

FAAMm is Coming

It’s not clear yet that mapping is big business, but it’s quite clear that big business is mapping. The most popular thing I’ve ever written is a piece about the incredible year OpenStreetMap is having, largely because of enormous investment from Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and Mapbox (FAAMm).²

How Google Will Regress to the Mean if Nothing Changes

One of my favorite blog posts of all time is Steve Yegge’s missive, “Why I left Google to join Grab.” In it, he claims the primary reason he is leaving is because:

  1. Loosen up licensing restrictions on the Maps Platform generally. Allow customers to digitize features visible in Street View imagery, for instance. Grant permission to users who want to mix-and-match your geocoding service with a beautifully-styled basemap from Mapbox. You’re stifling countless creative uses for your services while fighting against an irresistible force that the core of your search business is built upon: information wants to be free.
  2. Aggressively price services to grow the overall market. Google Cloud Platform (GCP) is likely an outsized share of the future of your business — Microsoft and Amazon clearly understand this about themselves. But when it comes to maps, you have the lead. By mis-pricing your maps API, you’re taking a cracked door and slamming it wide open for your competitors. And for what? Do you really need the incremental revenue today?



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Joe Morrison

Joe Morrison

Comedic relief at Umbra. Writing about maps and the people that make them. For inquiries: jrmorrison.jrm [at] gmail [dot] com