The combination of my messed up internal clock and the fact that it seems there is now a wireless LAN at the villa means that I am up blogging when I should be sleeping. The Web geek blog buzz today is the announcement contained in the blog post entitled Map-making: So easy a caveman could do it on the Official Google blog which states
That's why we're announcing My Maps, a new feature that makes it quick and easy to create your own custom Google Maps
just by pointing and clicking. You can add placemarks, draw lines and
shapes, and embed text, photos and videos -- all using a simple drag
and drop interface. Your map automatically gets a public URL that you
can share with your friends and family, or you can also publish your
map for inclusion in Google Maps search results. We'll continue to show
organic local search results with red pushpins; user-generated results
will have blue pushpins. The user-created results include KML as well
as maps made through My Maps.
To give you a better idea of what
kind of maps you can make, here are some examples that Googlers created
after we released the feature internally. (We ran a contest and gave a
Nintendo Wii to the best map-maker.)
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. :)
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.
Is the expectation that companies shouldn't be able to improve their products once startups start trying to build a business out of the fact that their product is missing features? I've never understood that reasoning. Paul Kedrosky specifically calls this "pulling a Microsoft". I wonder...do users really want their computers to ship without a Web browser or a media player? Do users really want to go to one site to get maps and another to add annotations to these maps? Adding features to products is good for users and we shouldn't be trying to artificially limit products because some startups are trying to build a business out of a feature. If startups like Platial and Frappr are actually adding value then they'll survive. If they don't, then they probably didn't have much of a business to begin with.
PS: I understand that the philosophy of anti-trust law in Europe is about preventing unfair competition whereas in the U.S. it is about preventing harm to consumers. Thus depending on where you are from these questions will strike a different chord with you.