Blog and news reels are all abuzz about new Web 2.0 mapping services that Google and Microsoft have released recently. It’s great to have validation – albeit if it is way overdue – of a company which I ran 4 years ago (wow, has it been that long?!). We were just ahead of our time! Unlike Google and Microsoft though, we didn’t have crazy cash war chests sitting around. On the otherhand, we weren’t a public company and had a small group of investors – I’m not sure how Goog and Msoft are justifying this to their shareholders. Sure, there are going to be a whole array of new hobbiest services making use of mashups, but few of them will generate revenues for themselves let alone the mapping provider. Sooner or later, shareholders will realize that there are high costs associated with this and an extremely competitive landscape of providers, thus revenues will be scarce. It may be exciting to think that mapping services may move to become more local focused with users being able to determine where the nearest coffee shop, but it may be some time until it becomes reality.
See, in hindsight, the are way too many obstacles for services like this to work despite all of the exciting Web2.0 offerings out there today. In 2001, when we were attempting to raise our second round, we estimated that the turnover in businesses storefronts was approximately 40% per annum – that means 40% of all photographs, descriptions, contact details, etc, would need to be updated each year, and since the cost per location is not linear, the overall cost would be closer to 60%. In fact, Microsoft is already having these problems (who was the brainiac who decided to use maps over 10 years old?? The streets around my place in Canada have changed about 3 times in the past 5 years).
Sure today’s services such as Flickr, and the prolifernece of camera phones will help – this is what we’re counting – but it won’t solve the prob. It will be easy to get people to provide the latest info for common areas – but that’s the 20-8o rule right? it will take 80% of your effort to get that last 20% of locations. And if I can not be assured of accuracy when using a service, I will quickly drop using the service and find an alternative – currently, I just call a friend for directions which is just as effective – i’ll pay for that….