Open Street Map beats Google Maps for business use.

Google have started gouging for Google Maps. It turns out that when you price like Oracle, people do the numbers and say fuck it:

$200,000 to $300,000 a year is, at the very least, the same as hiring a very good engineer for a year (and paying all the taxes and benefits and costs and still having a lot of money left). It was enough money to finally push us into doing our own maps.

(More detail. They didn’t actually spend less money — generating and serving all the map tiles is the expensive bit — but they got much more control and a much better result for the same money.)

I’ve long thought OpenStreetMap would have fit Wikimedia’s portfolio wonderfully — it’s a marvellous example of a project doing really well with the Wikipedia model, without being a linked entity. (And thus helping our mission without us doing the work.)

I remember a London Dorkbot presentation in 2004 on OSM — a friend who was working for Multimap pooh-poohed the idea that OSM could ever achieve a usable-quality map. I had been involved in Wikipedia for a few months at that time and considered this immediately obviously wrong, having seen what a few people just chucking in what they knew could achieve even at that stage.

OSM now has a foundation. Seeing as their server appears to be melting, they could probably do with a quid or two. They’re not yet officially a UK charity, but WMUK achieving charitable status does makes this more feasible.

There should be no chance to gouge for this sort of content. What other rent-seeking business models can the Wikipedia model destroy? Update: List of things that need to be free.

3 thoughts on “Open Street Map beats Google Maps for business use.”

  1. Yeah, I don’t really get why OSM is still so massively underfunded and undeveloped. It’s still where Wikipedia was in, oh, 2004? There are some real differences in the communities (partially, imho, because “map makers” and “encyclopaedia makers” have different personalities). And the community really hasn’t matured in the way Wikipedia’s did: there are *still* no policies, no guidelines, and a vehement belief that rules are bad, and lack of standardisation is a strength, not a weakness.

    For all that, the OSM data is pretty good (in some parts of the world it’s truly excellent), and there are lots of good tools out there.

    What other rent-seeking business models? Well, we’re basically talking about models that charge for access to large, slow-moving datasets. Business directories might be a good target – something OSM doesn’t do well, but some third party could.

  2. You’re paying Google to do the calculation, serve the tiles and so forth as a service. As Sebastian Delmont notes, they didn’t actually save any money – doing it themselves costs them engineering time and hosting. But they have complete control and can’t be gouged worse later, by anyone.

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