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Google Decides to Monetize Maps (adage.com)
330 points by tornadron on April 18, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 361 comments

I can't stress enough how much of a bad idea this is. I was stunned when a few days ago I was looking up something on Google Maps and started seeing advertised locations/suggestions.

Even though I love the product and have been a fan of Google products for the longest time, their current strategy of monetizing everything they can is very off putting. The direction Chrome is taking is also concerning.

Don't know what really is going on at Google at the higher levels, but from an outsider's perspective is seems like they are aggressively trying to grow even more. Maybe to raise stock price? But to invest in what? Maybe to compete with Apple and Amazon? I can't be the only one who thinks it all seems odd - going from "don't be evil" to shutting down a massive number of projects with a lot of potential (e.g. Inbox, Fiber)...

Don't mean to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but looking at the bigger picture, it looks like Google's strategy is going through some changes and I'm not convinced this would play out well for them in the end.

Well said. Thanks Google for cluttering my life with more unwanted spam.

I used to think of the Google brand very highly. Lately my subconscious associates it with the expectation of a sub-par user experience and some slightly creepy tendencies.

Couldnt agree more. In starting my quest to deGooglify my life, i switched to a new LG phone off my pixel 2 and i have to say, its worse. Am I going to switch back? Sure wont. Google has lost my business.

On an article related note, i wonder if/when this will affect waze

deGooglifying by moving from a Google Google phone to an LG Google phone.

Of course, the only viable alternative at this point is Apple. That's the choice I made and I feel they've earned higher consumer trust... for the moment.

I really think that, with smartphone technological improvements flattening out and the oligopoly starting to squeeze their customer base, there's never been a better time for open smartphone projects to get a foothold.

I hate what Google has become but some iOS design decisions like tying it to iTunes make me want to gouge my eyes out. The time is ripe for another phone OS.

I really can't stop using their search engine without making my life worse and yes I've tried DDG and bing etc.

It’s interesting how this changes.

I recently found my phone from 5 years ago and realized that at that time I implicitly trusted Google with everything.

It’s such a different perspective from today that it came as a bit of a shock.

Agreed. And this is not a good time for Google to spoil their brand since Apple services have been improving. We met up with friends in Chicago yesterday and while walking around using both Siri and Google on two iPhones, we were comparing results and ‘ready at hand’ utility. Google is better but I like Apple;s trajectory of improvement.

and filtering your life from more wanted pages..

the side effect of classification is not 100% positive

Why should they offer a free maps service? They are a business with shareholder responsibilities, not a charity, and maps must cost them a ton of money to operate.

You are correct. The reverse is true too, why should contribute data to their maps service for free? I've done lot of work to add and correct roads, update business info and addresses in my area. If they want to fill the map with ads they have that right - but when they drive me (and people like me) away, their product will suffer.

I’d strongly recommended putting future efforts into Open Streetmap instead - they have a fantastic set of data and tools and are usually (in my experience) more accurate and updated more quickly than Google.

I wish more people would do this, but sometimes it's a tough sell. I once tried to encourage a bunch of people who were banging their heads bloody trying to contribute to Facebook's places database to switch to editing OpenStreetMap instead. Most didn't want to switch -- they were convinced that their miserable experience improving Facebook was more impactful because it was a more popular product that they knew they used.

I with OSM would come out with a consumer-focused map product. I think that would go a long way towards attracting more contributors, since most people get started to scratch an itch in a product they use.

OSM is used underlying a lot of commercial apps and services.

Most people don't realise that though, so they think their edits correcting roads will only get seen by a handful of open source geeks.

Agreed. For example Pokemon GO uses it - which is why there was a large influx of new users, prompting the following guidelines page: https://blog.openstreetmap.org/2016/12/30/tips-pokemon-go/

MAPS.ME (https://maps.me/) is the closest we have to a "consumer-focused map product" in the OpenStretMap ecosystem.

Try it!

The StreetComplete app makes it fun and easy to contribute to OSM when walking around, by asking you simple questions about your immediate surroundings (how many stories does this building have, is this street one-way at this location, etc.) I highly recommend it.


Open Streetmap doesn’t build laser scanning drones, or fleets of connected 360 camera vehicles, or the tech and infrastructure to do the mapping. SOMEONE has to build all of that. It can’t be free. If it’s govt funded, then there WILL be corruption, scams, and it’ll be run as well as the DMV.

Because the private sector is free of corruption and scams?

The UK ordnance survey[1] is government run and is generally fantastic. They cover every inch of the UK in excruciating detail, provide centimeter precise GPS coordinates for everything and publish invaluable, cheap maps of it all. Why do you assume that the seemingly inept and corrupt US standard is the baseline that everything else will be?

1. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ordnance_Survey

Their maps were probably world-leading in the 90's.

Now though, I feel like the tech giants have overtaken them.

Where is the street view or 3d models? Where are the opening times of every shop? Where is the traffic congestion info? Where is the ability to look up a house number and find where on the street it is?

These are all things I regularly want to know and are location based, so really ought to be part of a mapping service.

> street view

That will probably never get done in a OSS manner at the scale of google, and even if it was serving it would probably be enormously expensive.

> 3d models

A lot of 3d models are in OSM, although not as detailed as in proprietary solutions.

> opening times of every shop

This is not something I want in the same database as the location data. The hope is that more sites/services use discovarable technologies lite microdata to make sure that it can be added to the map via separate databases.

> traffic congestion info

Again, real-time info is not really something I want in the same db as the actual street. traffic congestion info is a very different service than location or mapping info.

> look up a house number

This is part of the OSM offering, look into nominatim

UK agencies are recently doing pretty good. UK government however...

Many Americans have a baseless distrust of government. Our schools teach us from a very young age that "government bad, founding fathers came here from Britain to escape the evil government".

Osm is donation funded. For all your scepticism you could have found that in seconds. People contribute for fun, not because they boss told them to fly this later drone around so their expensive software can process it. That saves a lot of cost. The hardware is nearly free, look at Wikipedia: they beg for your money every few months but of the millions collected, a fraction actually goes to the hosting they imply it's for.

Osm also takes data from governments and other organisations that publish it, but only if it's already available under a compatible free license. Not sure where you see that tie in with corruption (which additionally is much more frequent in the private sector but maybe that depends on your country, but since there are no big bucks flowing in and all financial records are public and are plausible for what they do (I looked through it), the point is moot anyway).

I don't know about laser-scanning drones but for street-level imagery Mapillary and OpenStreetCam do the job. That is, if they have users around the area you're interested in.

A discussion about Mapillary vs OSC https://github.com/openstreetcam/openstreetcam.org/issues/60

I'll go for OSC for future projects. Thanks for sharing.

The government is mostly likely to be inefficient if it starts a company by committee and competition is prohibited. If it's just a financial backer for an independent entity, with a lot of strings attached to its support, I don't see why that would be any less efficient than any other business. Perhaps we just need to reexamine how the government gets things done...

That is all true, but what will solve the problem is making something that's suitable and free, either as part of OSM or in addition to it.

Because there's not corruption, scams or poorly run businesses in the private sector?

I get the use of an amazing map service for which I pay them with my data. I even contribute fixes, reviews, and photos. I'm pretty happy with that price. I don't give them anything for free. They pay me in service.

I actually want the ads too although I want them 100x better than they are and I'm sure Google like Amazon will fail for a while at curating the fake stuff. In an ideal world they'd have inventory and menus of every store so I could search for "pizza with avocados open now" or "1/4inch wrench" and it could tell me exactly where I can get them right now.

>. "pizza with avocados open now" or "1/4inch wrench" and it could tell me exactly where I can get them right now.

Answering queries like that has so much revenue potential. Possibly even more than the rest of Google put together. You bet they're trying to get there and have been for years. The reality is it's super hard to collect that data.

They've tried getting shops to upload info about what they sell (the Google Shopping manifest files). They've tried putting Bluetooth trackers in every store (they mailed them out to all big businesses in 2014 and said 'stick one of these in every department of your shop') to track who goes there to know what store might have what products. They've tried putting their own staff in the stores (Google Shopping Express, and the Chromebox staff in electronics stores).

None of it has worked, but they'll keep trying.

Why didn't you contribute to OpenStreetMap?

It has been years since I gave them a try. Their interface was horrible, but this is a good reason to try them again.

Regardless of what the sibling comment says, the editing UX is really good now. Their editor has a beautiful walkthrough and easy-to-use tools, at least on desktop: https://www.openstreetmap.org/edit

But is lacking pretty badly on mobile... Exactly the device people have with them when out in the real world...

True, I think one of the things Google Maps does very cleverly is making it really easy for users to suggest corrections, often just a single tap away. That said, OSMand has been making great strides usability-wise, and though it's still pretty lacking, hopefully it'll get there some day too.

I'll be honest, I actually prefer OSMand to some other navigation apps. It may be that I'm used to it, but I find it works really well. I think my only complaint is that they use an arrow to show where they think you should go and a kind of weird, hard to see shading to show where the phone is pointing. It confuses me each time until I remember how it works.

There is StreetComplete (application asking simple questions and making possible to edit without any OpenStreetMap specific knowledge)

Almost all free and open-source alternative have terrible UIs and crappy UX. And some have shitty content too.

However, that content is done by volunteers just like you, and if you refuse to contribute because something puts you off, then the project dies. Imagine people with the same mindset as you: Oh, I don't bother contributing my design skills because the content sucks. And you don't contribute because design sucks. In the end, no one contributes and the project, as a whole, suffers.

But if the project suffers, you and everyone else, lose to corporate offerings like Google. And that is fine, if you like that. But don't expect them to respect you. I hate to say this, but change has to come from within, not from laws, market forces or anything else.

So, if you want LIBRE maps, and you really care about that, just go on and do it. Gather people, make noise and work hard. There's thousands of highly successful projects to get inspired by.

OpenStreetMap's leadership isn't bold enough to ever become the leading map provider. I don't want to contribute (for free) unless I think one day my work will impact millions of people.

In what way aren't they bold enough? Their license is too restrictive for many commercial uses, driving big businesses (apple, Google, Microsoft) and their users away.

They don't use crowdsourced data. You're never going to be able to build real-time traffic maps by manual means.. They need to make a platform to anonymously share user data so other volunteers can write automated code to turn it into real-time map features.

Likewise, they might not have the resources for street view, but I bet a few million people submitting their photo library would get a photograph of a substantial number of buildings... Then it's just about code to sort, classify, tag, and arrange the images to be useful.

Apple and Microsoft use OSM data. So do Facebook and Garmin and countless others.

OSM already impacts the lives of millions of people. Indeed, it genuinely saves lives through its humanitarian work, and has been doing so since the Haiti earthquake.

What you appear to be saying is that it doesn’t provide motorist-centric features like “real-time traffic maps”. As someone who thinks the world would be a whole bunch better if there were fewer cars, I’m good with that.

> You're never going to be able to build real-time traffic maps by manual means

OpenStreetMap is not trying to make this specific product.

OP is not saying they cannot monetise their product as they see fit (it's their product). No one is saying that.

But when you have been offering something for free for years, people get used to that being the way of things, users are not going to respond well to the increase in advertisement.

Had Google done this from the beginning, people would have been more accepting of it. Generally speaking, if you change a service for the worse, people are generally going to view it less favourably than had it started out how it will now become.

There aren't a lot of good alternatives to Maps though.

I do find that the service is becoming more and more unusable with all the shitty product placements.

> There aren't a lot of good alternatives to Maps though.

For much of the world, OpenStreetMap data is considerably more complete than Google Maps. It is true that there is no website based on OSM that is as convenient as maps.google.com, but more and more people are using maps on mobile, where they are relying on apps and not a website, and OSM-based solutions like Maps.Me are good substitutes for Google’s ecosystem.

> "For much of the world, OpenStreetMap data is considerably more complete than Google Maps."

This is particularly true for many not-so-obscure niches, like hiking trails in and around major US cities. Once you stray from roads and business locations, Google Maps gets shockingly sparse.

Compare coverage for this park in Seattle:

Open Street Map: https://0x0.st/zqAH.png

Google Maps: https://0x0.st/zqAo.png

Google Maps is bare bones, while OpenStreetMap has tons of detail, even including locations for drinking water and park benches! Drinking water in particular is a great feature. You can't see that drinking fountain on Google Maps from either the satellite imagery or the street view imagery, but I can personally attest to it being there, right where OSM says it is.

Agree. I rely on OSM for exactly this sort of detail for all kinds of outdoor recreation activities. I contribute missing features when I can.

Bus lines in Germany too, to take perhaps an unexpected area.

The official and unofficial transport apps don't tell you the bus will be at platform 16 on a completely different street. Made me miss the bus more than once, the second time I planned time for it but it took me 20 minutes to find the stop. I assumed it was one of the first fourteen stop positions and I just overlooked it, went around again (inside, on the street, other side of the street...), still didn't find it, until I checked OpenStreetMap which just shows it on a map and gives the exact stop position instead of only the stop name.

The latest version of OsmAnd can even do public transport routing. It won't give you timetables that are subject to too frequent changes, but it's still impressive.

Depends what you use it for. For driving directions, there are plenty of alternatives. An excellent one is a standalone GPS device like a Garmin nüvi or a TomTom, which works entirely offline (except traffic reports, which are received over FM radio or Bluetooth). The only time I actually use Google Maps is when I'm at my PC, and Bing maps works just as well.

I think if you tried using gmaps for navigation you’d find it to be a far superior to those devices. Does your TomTom tell you “turn into the driveway after the Vitamin Shop”? Because gmaps does.

I have used google Maps for navigation. It's not all that much better than my Garmin, at least not in my area. Even in downtown Manhattan the Garmin worked flawlessly.

And Garmin units have had natural directions like that for four or five years. But I find it more of a hindrance than anything. I would rather hear "Turn right onto Wellington St" than "Turn right at the Starbucks", especially because the Starbucks is not always obvious.

But more importantly, I prefer a dedicated device because it's way more convenient. It's always there, it doesn't kill my battery, it doesn't rack up roaming fees when I cross the border[0], it has a large screen that's easy to see[1], it has super useful features like "Up ahead" that shows where the next rest stop, service centre, etc. is, and it leaves my phone free for audiobook duties.

My Garmin has been nearly 100% reliable because it never moves and automatically comes on with the ignition. Google Maps is at best 20% reliable because it's not there when I need it.

[0] Yes, google Maps can download maps to work offline, but they constantly expire, leaving me high and dry when I actually need them, and I don't want to download half the continental US just for a road trip. Oh, and POI search is gimped when offline.

[1] My phone does not have a large screen, and Google Maps' map is incredibly difficult to decipher when driving because of super thin low-contrast lines, tiny labels, and a non-zoomable display (when in driving mode).

I too have a garmin based navigation radio and I won't be ver trade it over Gmaps, as you said it's always there just touch the icon and it's up and running, i can speak directions just like in the phone it will lower the music or phone volume to tell directions, i can sync search adresses from my phone or can search on it if i want to, it's faster.

Is yours built into the dash? How much of a pain is it to update the maps? Mine stays in the suction cup mount on the windshield, but when I update it once a year or so, I can easily bring it into the house and plug it into my computer. It's not linked to my radio at all, so I don't get niceties like lowering the volume, but I don't mind.

I just use a software in the desktop that will tell me if there's any available update, if so i can put it on an SD card and just pop it in the car and that's it, I believe i can do it directly o the unit through wifi but never tried.

> I have used google Maps for navigation. It's not all that much better than my Garmin, at least not in my area. Even in downtown Manhattan the Garmin worked flawlessly.

If flawlessly defined sending one to the closed street and putting one into a two hour long traffic jam because it has no real time data feed, then sure maybe it is flawless. But this is 2019 and not 2009.

But it did not do that to me. And this was in 2016, not 2019.

Furthermore, it does have a data feed for traffic, through FM radio (using the power cable as an antenna) and/or a Bluetooth connection to a phone. It's not as good as google Maps' traffic updates and it's only for major roads, but it works pretty well.

I have a Garmin that's over five years old and it gives me real-time traffic updates reliably.

Honestly, I don't think I'd call that ability "far superior". If it came without cost, it would have some value, but it's not a game-changer or anything.

It was a game changer for me. I would have completely missed the driveway if not for it telling me to look past the Vitamin Shop. Would have taken me five minutes to circle back around again. That seems like a big deal to me.

Fair enough. Different people have different needs.

I find this comment super interesting, I assume alerting you to the vitamin shop is an ad, but its also a feature that differentiates gmaps from other mapping services. It also feels like a less creepy form of advertising as it is obvious why they are letting you know about the vitamin shop, as it is location dependent and directly relevant to your directions.

I noticed yesterday while driving in San Francisco it told me to turn left onto xxx street "at the Starbucks"

Though I'd agree with the sibling who questions how much of a game changer it is, I can't help but notice how fantastic an example this is of the value in having a diverse team developing a product.

I think that period was part of their investment and also helped them to improve the product. And like any other investment, they need to make money as well. I can imagine Maps is an expensive product to operate. I also hate ads and I hope they find a different way to make it reasonably profitable.

There is a fine line between "investment to build a product" and "dumping below cost to win consumers over via low prices, then raising prices"

Google already makes money hand over fist. I am not sure if what you posit holds water.

YouTube adverts: I have been very impressed with Google's slow frog-cooking growth of ads on YouTube.

I was also impressed with the decades long growth of advertising on TV.

It's a surprisingly sizeable mistake to think this way. Google was loved because they gave things that were better than the era state of the art. Hotmail users moved away to gmail because it was dead obvious. Maps used to cost a lot and were clumsy.. now you can fly over them in a browser.

Google's business was to answer query. The rest was philanthropy. If they start to operate like any other crap stock they'll go the way of the loo.

Operating Maps gives Google a ton of information about where people go, where they work, live, what businesses they patronize, etc. Data they can turn around and use for advertising purposes. It's not like they've been running Maps out of the goodness of their hearts.

I don't think the issue is monetization. I think the issue is the method of monetization. Doing something like offering paid enhancements, or even an option to pay in exchange for being omitted from the ad network, would be more acceptable.

Have you tried Google Contributor: https://contributor.google.com/v/beta

It's hard to tell for certain from that site, but it looks like that doesn't do what I want. What I want is to stop the data collection that is used for advertising. Does Contributer do that?

Also, this looks like it's about web sites that carry Google ads (and only those sites that have decided to participate -- none of which look to be sites I use anyway), not Google's own services.

>Why should they offer a free maps service?

Have you heard of a "loss leader"[1]?


Users are unlikely to use Google for maps and say, Bing for their searches. Maps drives traffic to search. Conversely, making maps overly commercial will drive traffic away from search.

>Users are unlikely to use Google for maps and say, Bing for their searches.

I don't know, I see very little tying the two together. I currently use DDG exclusively for search except for localized searching and maps, for which I use Google. There isn't really much friction to switch between the two. Especially since most of my map usage is on mobile, where it is a separate app.

>I currently use DDG exclusively for search except for localized searching and maps

So you're way out in the long tail.

I started using Bing maps for its own sake, after Google redesigned their maps site a few years back and made it far less useful; I've never bothered to use Bing search. The two functions have not been related in my experience.

They already make money with it by the data it collect and the users it retains.

I would say because it will backfire. Huge swaths of humanity using google maps to track their daily lives is beyond valuable.

I would argue that maps is probably already monetized, as it probably improves ad targeting in all of their other apps.

True, but that highlights the very reason monopolies must be broken up. They will only do what is profitable, not what is best for the users.

It's not free and installed by default on every android devices ?

You mean, I can buy a subscription and not rent the service with my search history ?

Where's the sign-up button ?

There are tons of viable competitors to google maps, even on Android, last time I checked.

They all have different monetization strategies, and all provide good enough turn by turn directions. I regularly use Here WeGo for its offline support. Sygic is probably still fine.

I think Sygic moved to a freemium model, and I get the impression Here is subsidized by luxury car manufacturers.

Yelp crushes google maps on search.

I really don’t understand why google maps is so popular. Like search, maps is a capital intensive, commodity product with near-zero switching cost. I guess the same can be said of Coke and Pepsi, and they’re chugging along just fine. It’s a good thing I don’t work in brand management!

> Yelp crushes google maps on search.

Not even in the same ball park. Yelp's search for example does not understand that there's a RIVER between Brooklyn and Manhattan. So when I'm in Greenpoint it says there's something right there, in Manhattan when I want something local.

I think when a lot of people made their "maps provider" decision, there weren't a lot of these other options available. Many people use Google Maps because it was the best maps option at the time they were first figuring out their early smartphone apps.

And for newer people, bundling is hugely impactful. Doing nothing is almost always the most popular choice

I don't see the differences between google maps and the alternative you suggest regarding their price or their money making strategies.

> I really don’t understand why google maps is so popular.

Because it's bundled on billions of devices ? And it's a product that was/is working really well for the vast majority ?

What competitor would you recommend for public transit directions?

Interestingly enough, Google like an increasing number of companies is a "public" company. Brin and Page own the majority of the voting power meaning Google, is for all intents and purposes, their company. The same is true of Facebook and Zuckerberg which makes all the calls to try to replace him rather bemusing. Literally every person who owns Facebook stock could vote to replace him and it'd be irrelevant since he has the majority of voting power.

The point of this is that the direction Google has been taking lately has been very much the arbitrary choice and direction chosen by Larry and Sergey, and consequently highly reflective of their own personal ideologies and worldviews.

It isn't free. They're already monetizing your location data.

They have altered the monetization. Pray they don't alter it further.

What changed over the last 10 years, and why wasn’t it monetized earlier? Maybe because then they wanted to make a useful service and get some data for their search ads, and now they just want more money.

They ran all of their competition out of business.

Google Maps was a revolutionary product that popularized the category, they had no competition when it was released, at least now there's Apple Maps, Open Street Map, Bing Maps, Tencent Maps.

I was developing with ESRI ArcGIS at the time, ESRI was a multi-billion dollar GEO company who had no product that even came close to the instant utility Google Maps launched with.

The only other product that had a similar "Wow" factor around the same time was Keyhole which we were using before Google acquired them and used it to launch "Google Earth".

If anything Google Maps spawned competition in the last decade, the existing competitors like ESRI are still developing their GEO products for Internal/Enterprise use, but now there are a number of competing consumer mapping services that provide the same utility and functionality of Google Maps from large technology companies that didn't have GEO as part of their competency like: Apple Maps, Bing Maps and Tencent Maps.

I just finished reading "Never Lost Again: The Google Mapping Revolution That Sparked New Industries and Augmented Our Reality" (https://amzn.com/0062673041) about the evolution of Google Earth, Maps, and Street View. Written by one of the founders of Keyhole (the company that built what became Google Earth), the book is mostly about the founding of Keyhole and its mapping technology, but it has some insider info about the political maneuverings between Google's Search and Geo teams over owning the map ads because everyone knew it would be a big deal. The book is pretty interesting, but light on the technical details.

> they had no competition when it was released

There were multiple competing products when Google Maps was released, so they had competition. Google's product was simply better at than most alternatives at the time.

There was no real-time Consumer Maps App that came close to competing with Google Maps UX. Now there are multiple Consumer Mapping Services that replicate the instant utility of Google Maps, but it was revolutionary with no equal at the time.

I agree (as I said) that Google offered a solution that was superior to the competition. My only point was that there was, in fact, competition.

As I'm being down voted without any discussion I'll remove why none of the existing competition did or could've done what Google Maps did and keep the insights I had at the time as a GEO developer to myself. Fly-by downvoters can continue believing the revisionist history they wish to.

Feel free to believe Google Maps had competition (they didn't), nothing else at the time provided the same instant utility of Google Maps which basically ushered in the new category of "real-time search-based Consumer Maps" of which there are plenty now.

Anything that existed previously would've needed a rewrite to achieve the same instant utility of Google Maps. Nothing without it could've become mainstream. The competition like ESRI still doesn't have it, but they're still focused on Internal/Enterprise Usage, they let you build GEO Maps but they don't let you build consumer maps that compete with Google Maps.

> ...why none of the existing competition...

You're agreeing with me here by admitting that there was existing competition. The rest of your remarks are about how much better Google's offering was to the competition, which is a point I've already agreed with.

That's like saying a DB search is existing competition for a Google Search, it isn't.

There were existing GEO companies that provided Mapping Services (I was developing GEO Apps with one of them at the time), but there was nothing like the consumer focused Google's Maps preceding it, with its worldwide pre-rendered imagery at multiple zoom-levels coupled with a global search that displayed annotated Markup results delivered over an Ajax Web interface that allowed seamless panning/zooming of the Earth scaled to millions of users.

It wasn't a fluke that Google Maps gained instant popularity with mainstream Internet users over everything else, there was nothing else like it.

> That's like saying a DB search is existing competition for a Google Search

If by "DB search" you mean the old-school engines like Lycos, etc., then yes, it is like saying that. And yes, I think those did count as existing competition for Google search.

I suspect that we mean different things by "competition" here...

While I agree about the utility, MapQuest pre-dated Google Maps by a fair bit.

As an avid user of mapquest back in the day, the user experience that google provided (tiled maps that could be panned/zoomed seamlessly) was absolutely revolutionary and the clincher for me.

Mapquest back then had the clunky “click the big arrow” to move the map and reload the page navigation...

The instant utility was essential to its massive popularity, it basically ushered in the new era for real-time Consumer mapping. Everything preceding it was clunky, slow and "turn based". I can't recall what the state of MapQuest was at the time, but it's unlikely it had the real-time UX or utility of Google Maps.

Was a real eye-opener of "so that's how you make Maps fast" at the time, just pre-render the entire world at multiple static zoom levels. Which wasn't an option (disk cost) for anyone developing their own in-house mapping Services at the time. For my next GEO project I did the next best thing and used their Google Maps API to change it to make map tile requests to our ArcGIS App which dynamically cached map tiles on the fly, so whilst it didn't pre-render all tiles, it provided a nice "Google Maps"-like UX for popular areas of our region.

Multimap and Streetmap in the UK both had prerendered tiles at multiple zoom levels years before Google. I'd developed a smooth "slippy map" at my then employer (waterscape.com) before Google Maps was released, using Flash and the Ming authoring interface, but IIRC Google released before we did.

It's kind of amazing how well Google did without a first mover advantage here. MapQuest launched in 1996. Google Maps launched in 2005.

The advantage of Google Search and the willingness to lose millions (billions?) Of dollars on a product is a powerful combination.

It didn't work for Google+

The only thing more powerful than money is the network effect.

I recall that Mapquest required CD based installation on Windows and it was not cheap . Google was simple browser based app and free.

They had a web version, but it wasn't a 'slippy map' like Google had.

OpenStreetMap was started before Google Maps was launched and has never really tried to compete in the sense of providing a user portal.

And then the data wasn't there for years and years also. And Google has lots more POI data in much of the world.

(I say this as a contributor to OSM...)

It was never free. Every time you use it, you offer up your current location and/or place(s) you’re interested in visiting, all of which is very valuable for targeted advertising.

If you go down that road, why offer our content for free to google to index? Maps and other google services help the web grow, which helps them sell more ads. It 's a synergy until it is no longer one. I suppose they will not be dumb enough to monetize recaptcha next.

>Why should they offer a free maps service?

The shouldn't. They should be forced to close, and Maps and Search should be provided by a non-profit, internationally controlled (UN etc), organization, not a for-profit company.

That's my opinion of what would be best. Some services (like "indexing the world's knowledge") are too important to be left to private interests and be monetized via ads...

Forced to close? Why? That's a terrible authoritarian idea.

The only solution is more competition, not less. Trying to limit who can do what has only ever led to worse outcomes. There's nothing stopping a non-profit group from creating maps today if they wanted to.

Authoritarianism is not a solution, but neither is the magic of the free market when the dynamic is increasingly consolidated wealth looking for ever faster returns due to the technology cycle.

The idea that a non-profit could compete in the current economic and cultural climate is laughable. Some social change is required, and government for all its flaws is the logical place for such change to actually gain some teeth.

The idea that a non-profit must compete is what's laughable. This service is expensive. Who's going to pay for it? Taxes? Subscriptions? Ads again?

The free market is exactly what allows anyone to compete, and Apple and Microsoft already do so, along with dozens of industrial providers.

Non-profits can't afford the engineers to make a maps service work well at scale. Sure, Google is entering the revenue extraction phase of their existence, so it opens the door to competitors, but who will fill that gap? The non-profit version will be shitty compared to the next VC-funded startup paying engineers $200-$500k each to build a world-changing maps service, which they give away for free in order to grab marketshare, then they crank up the price and the cycle repeats. The low barrier to entry when the web disrupted Microsoft was an anomaly, even despite increased open source tooling, VC boom times have sucked the oxygen out of the room for non-profits and bootstrappers trying to build great tech products.

>Forced to close? Why? That's a terrible authoritarian idea.

I don't believe "authoritarian" applies to companies. If anything corporatism is authoritarian.

What exactly does "force to close" mean and how does it work in a free-market capitalist society then?

If there are valid regulations to follow then sure but that's not what the parent comment seems to be suggesting.

>What exactly does "force to close" mean and how does it work in a free-market capitalist society then?

There's no "free-market capitalist society". Just a really-existing capitalist society (like "really-existing socialism" which touted one set of values, but practiced another), that sells to people the lie that markets are (and can be) free, when they aren't in most ways that matters.

This is a pedantic dead-end. The market is free enough. Regulation is not a problem, as already stated, provided the legislature is looking out for citizens and making the proper laws.

None of that has to do with Google being "forced to close" its Maps just because you don't like ads.

"Authoritarian" is when you're the one pointing guns at people (and companies) in order to make them do what you say is best.

Not really. A society can democratically decide to not have companies do this or that.

Except if you think e.g. forbidding them from using child labor or from not hiring women/blacks etc. are authoritarian too, then you already agree that a society can impose some laws (onto companies), and them to not be authoritarian.

If you agree to the above, then now the main difference is that you think the above examples are "fair" and "ok", whereas the other proposal is not. But that's a matter of opinion, not some objective truth.

A society can democratically decide to not have companies do this or that.

The only power they (we) have to enforce such policies is to stick a gun in someone's back. It's true that some matters call for the initiation of violence to maintain a greater societal good. You've cited some worthwhile examples but this isn't one of them.

If you agree to the above, then now the main difference is that you think the above examples are "fair" and "ok", whereas the other proposal is not. But that's a matter of opinion, not some objective truth.

Our Constitution lies somewhere in the middle between opinion and objective truth. It carries more weight than the former (those guns again) and less than the latter. It arguably doesn't provide the legal tools needed to force Internet search engines and map providers to work on a nonprofit basis.

There are other countries whose founding documents don't include similar constraints. Fortunately, nobody will shoot you for trying to leave this one.

Forced to close by economic forces, not legislative or political pressure. That isn't terrible at all, that's the basis of the capitalist, quasi-competitive economy which these companies champion so much. The most viable service wins. Nothing authoritarian about that.

> There's nothing stopping a non-profit group from creating maps today if they wanted to.

Apple and Google probably feel very differently. We've already seen them fight it out, wait till they join together to start keeping their boots on the up and comers.

In the end I don't give a rat's ass about their profit line and I put advancement of Earth and its people as my top priority.

"Forced to close by economic forces" is not what the other poster was saying. Competition is good. And yes, Apple and Google will put up a fight because that's how competition works.

>> I put advancement of Earth and its people as my top priority.

Great. Are you working on a mapping service?

If a government or government-sanctioned non-profit receives enough tax credits and funding to create a viable alternative to Google Maps which puts the service out of business, it's still just market competition. We do this all of the time with banks, large American industries, oil companies, etc. You can't have one and turn away the other.

> Great. Are you working on a mapping service?

That's fallacious. I don't have a giant pile of money sitting around. But I support initiatives like OpenStreetMap even if I see room for improvement.

Again, that's not what the other poster meant by "forced to close". They specifically said maps shouldn't be provided by a for-profit company. That's the opposite of competition.

I'm not sure who you're arguing with because we all want more options, and we already have several from Apple, Microsoft and others. I definitely don't want my taxes being spent on another poorly executed govt project though.

>> I don't have a giant pile of money sitting around.

Maybe you should care about profit then because that's why Google Maps exists.

Google Maps exists because someone at Google had a very noble idea and since then Google has decided it likes service lock-in. It's not a bad product in any form.

But I don't want ads in my map software any more than I want ads in my travel atlases.

If you want to use a government provided map, go for it: https://viewer.nationalmap.gov/advanced-viewer/

As maps go, its pretty nice - much more reminiscent of printed maps. But, its of no use for more practical tasks like providing directions, or finding restaurants.

Some services like "indexing the world's knowledge" are too important to have a government (UN?) enforced monopoly on. Doing this would be one of the best way of killing any innovation in the area.

Some things are too important to be left to completely ineffective quasi-governmental organizations.

Well, they only took us to the moon, deliver our mail, handle invasions, wars, and other emergency situations, and so on. Oh, and they also gave us this internet thing.

In fact, before the web era, they also made the best maps (e.g. the British military maps).

And today we have the ISS supplied by private space companies, UPS and Fedex and Amazon handling logistics around the world, and most aerospace and defense innovation and manufacturing handled by private contractors.

Government vs private is not mutually exclusive. Like another commenter said, the US Geological Survey already has mapping data available. Adding in traffic from local agencies and weather from the National Weather Service is relatively simple so we can definitely have a neutral public maps service. None of that requires forcing Google Maps to close though.

That is the worst option of all, unless you want to see random buildings appear / disappear from your map.

Well, you can start by donating money or your time to OpenStreetMap and DuckDuckGo.

I agree. When people are using this in the car, I sure hope the audio prompts are left alone.

"You are passing a rare gem, take exit 20..."

Well, it was a rare gem, until exploited for a buck. No way I want to go now. All sorts of ugly can happen here.

They are responsible, but I don't see how shoving ads into their end-users face is going to be seen positively. There are other ways to monetize a product, for example B2B.

OK. Why should they start offering it?

There are two main ways an ad business grows. Create more inventory to sell, and increase the value of that inventory.

Maps data had presumably been doing the latter behind the scenes. Now it appears to also be doing the former.

Would you be ok with them using the data to improve their targeting models as long as they didn't include the placements in the Maps experience itself?

> Would you be ok with them using the data to improve their targeting models as long as they didn't include the placements in the Maps experience itself?

There was a day when I would have been OK with that, but for me, those days are long gone. I would not be OK with that now.

i'd be okay if they charged me to get rid of the ads (though that brings in all sorts of privacy issues for that to work across the many places I encounter Maps)...but ads are a serious detriment to life.

Wall St only cares about growth. If you make $100B profit two quarters in a row, that’s 0% growth and you’re dead to them. The approach makes sense with smaller companies, but it seems to kill those who reach global dominance.

Obligatory Peter Thiel statement on this (2012): https://youtu.be/2Q26XIKtwXQ?t=195

> Google is no longer a technology company, and [...] it's basically [...] a search engine. The search technology was developed a decade ago, it's a bet that [...] no one else will come up with a better search technology so you invest in Google because you're betting against technological innovation in search, and it's like [...] a bank that generates enormous cash flows every year but you can't issue a dividend because the day you take that 30 billion and send it back to people you're admitting that you're no longer a technology company.

Still relevant today.

It's also not true, Apple is paying dividends and still valued as a technology company (and both Google and Apple clearly are in tech, dividends or not).

As Marc Andreessen memorably put it, Apple is valued "like a steel mill going out of business", with a PE massively lower than Google, Microsoft, Facebook, etc.

> "seems like they are aggressively trying to grow even more. Maybe to raise stock price?"

it's interesting to note that google is tacitly admitting that their tentacular data ingestion products (like maps) and their vast machine-learning infrastructure by themselves can't generate the value they're expecting, so they're resorting to direct monetization. otherwise they wouldn't take another PR hit like this.

Do you think they could avoid these concerns by avoiding an ad model? E.g. what if they had a version of EB5 maps for investors (https://eb5affiliatenetwork.com/eb-5-tea-map/) or integrated route planning to optimize ambulance trips (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2982752/)?

>But to invest in what?

Maybe now that they changed OpenAI from a non-profit, to what they dub a new type of legal entity: a non-profit that pays out “profits” to investors - and they further claim this will be the most valuable company in history by orders of magnitude - maybe they want to milk google users which they can write off by investing in the non-profit they control effectively own (even though legally non profits don’t have owners).

Who is "they" in your comment? What relationship does OpenAI have to Google?

Article from February [1] says their profit margin is sliding as costs rise. These moves might be an attempt to balance the situation.

1. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-02-04/alphabet-...

There's no conspiracy, just unrestrained capitalism. This is what big business does; it's entirely unsurprising. Growth becomes an end unto itself. Google was "not being evil" while doing so served their purposes; they benefitted hugely from virtuously investing in open technologies like the web, RSS, email, and early Android. But now that they've become more powerful they don't need that stuff any more, and they stand to benefit more from building barriers and consolidating control.

Our Google Maps bill went from ~$100k per year to $380k per year as a result of these changes. Needless to say, we're moving over to Mapbox.

What Google seems to miss is how this will affect customers' receptiveness to other Google products in the long-term. Having pulled the rug from under us once, there's no way we could consider e.g. a migration to Cloud in case the same happened again (where moving to a different provider would be far more painful).

I agree. I get that when you build your business around someone else's API that you are responsible for any changes and you should be prepared when business models change, but this would be analogous to milk prices going from $1/pint to $3.80/pint.

A 280% increase in pricing after you've gained dominance in market share is a tough pill to swallow and left a really bad taste in developer's mouths.

I too have moved on to Mapbox, and I suspect the OSM group was thrilled at the changes since now their mapping efforts probably increased tremendously. We're probably going to roll our own map tile servers based on OSM since Mapbox as well is pricey, but not Google Maps pricey.

Mapbox actually fired the majority of the people they were paying to work on OSM a few months ago [1]. I don't really know why, and it seems like a really odd decision (unless maybe they're developing their own non OSM-based map), but if anyone knows why I'd love to find out.

[1] Compare https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/w/index.php?title=Mapbox&diff... to the current list: https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Mapbox#Mapbox_Data_Team

Google seems to launch a product, see if it dominates and then monitorises it or drop it like a stone. But offering a free product, advert free, building up customer base for years and then flipping the switch - has become the norm. What they seem to be gearing towards more and more, is offering customers subscription deals to opt out of adverts etc.

Pretty genius really from a company/marketing perspective and equally an approach that only a company the scale of Google with the pockets, could pull off. They effectively rope in lots of developers, then flip the switch on them, knowing some will jump, but equally most will hang in there for various reasons. They are now looking at tapping into the other end of the pie with customer subscriptions.

The upshot and what you end up paying for is the ability to get real support - least that is the vertues many a Google 1, user are trumpeting.

But the real upshot is moves like this will only fuel development of alternative offerings and more so, boost existing alternative offerings.

As with most things beyond death and taxes, there is some sort of choice. It is surprising how many companies in various forms count on consumers not exercising those choices.

lots of wild assumptions there, and slightly offtopic to the thread you replied to, which was about cloud offerings specifically , where they are already on the traditional google product path, not in this assumed path they might or not use for maps.

There are so many APIs that they've flipped pricing on or flat out cancelled I'm surprised anyone still uses them for absolutely any APIs.


I can't say this strongly enough:

Google APIs and platforms are for building toy weekend projects. DO NOT use them for your business.

I see this as their biggest hurdle when trying to sell GCP.

When Amazon and MSFT have decent products and massive reliability, why even try switching to unreliable Google, irrespective of their technical superiority.

I'm using their search with autocomplete as a convenience feature in our app. My bill will go from $0 to $3,000 per month.

I'd be happy to pay them a reasonable price, but this costs more than our whole infrastructure, so we are moving to a vendor who offers a more realistic pricing for us.

Same thing here - have been using Google's autocomplete for 5 years and now it has become our biggest monthly expense for a niche consumer app. It cut our net profits in half.

Trouble is that there is no other service available with as comprehensive of coverage across the globe and so many languages as Google's, so we're just dealing with the hit.

Why do we need this though? I'm perfectly capable of typing my address, have been doing it for years. Every time I start typing where I live and some box pops up with a Google logo in it, I feel kind of violated.

Meanwhile in Google HQ, someone wins a bet over in which house this cookie deleting nerd using Linux on turns out to live in.

If we can please stop it, or at least opt out ("click here not to share your address details with Google") and turn the input box into a dumb textarea, that'd be great. Should save you money, too.

One of my absolute favorite things about switching to iOS is how minimalist Apple Maps is. No more nagging "suggested businesses" (ads), no more promoted locations, no more prompts to rate or tag things. Just a map, a search field, and sometimes a subtle prompt for directions to a location I actually go to on a regular basis. I love apps that aren't constantly trying to sell me things. Unfortunately they feel almost alien in today's world.

I stopped using Google Maps a few years back. I received a notification on my phone that a store I was near was having a sale. It was clear that something was leaking my location, and that was being used to push ads to me through Android itself.

A little investigation revealed that the culprit was Google Maps. I uninstalled it at that point and never looked back.

Using your activity as a substrate for ads has always been Google's business model, and never been a secret. You don't have to go along with it, but it's not a revelation.

You're right, and that's why I firewall off all apps by default so that they can't communicate out. I had granted an exception for Google Maps, accepting that I'll be supplying data to Google.

The revelation was that Google Maps was no longer just being used to collect data, but was being used to actively push ads outside of Maps itself. That was a bridge too far for me.

In the time since, I have rid my device of all Google applications, as Google's overall model is not something I can tolerate any more.

Clearly, it was a revelation to him. Which is Google's fault, not his. Google should communicate clearly and visibly what data they use and for what.

When I first got my Pixel 2 a year or so ago, I was stunned when after a few weeks I started getting notifications like "Check out the McDonalds 1 Block Away!" or "Starbucks is 0.25 miles from you" (or something along those lines). I took about 20 minutes and found all of the setting related to this in Maps and Notifications, and disabled all of them. No, I'm not going to McDonald's daily during my walk to the train, despite what Google is suggesting.

Wonder how close they can get to deliberately routing all traffic through McDonalds and Starbucks drive-throughs, as an unskippable part of the route.

Oh wait, oh wait! They do that and then you get an INSTANT E-COUPON for wherever they drove you through. You'll be driving to nowhere just for the chance to be given amazing discounts en-route!

(open to placing bets on how they will inevitably, literally do this. I want royalties, you bastards :D )

Just wait until Waymo’s self driving cars become a thing.

Your route home will be determined by the highest bidders, so you’ll have no choice but to go past that particular McDonald’s, the in-cabin screens displaying personalised, location-based messages all the while.

Better yet. You will be restricted where you can go based on your net worth or social credit score.

So what do you use now

Check out maps.me for iOS and Android -> Open source, uses OpenStreetMap data (you can fix it!), offline maps with regular updates.

Ugh. In it's core Maps.me might be a good app. But it's sooo full of tracking stuff [1]. And I'm not even sure exodus catches all of them :-/.

There's a fork on F-Droid just called Maps, which removes all those trackers and works really well. [2] Unfortunately there's currently an issue with downloading the maps data, which makes the app currently unusable without manual workarounds. [3]

The other option would be OSMAnd[4], which is a great app but maybe not quite as user-friendly as maps.me/maps when initally getting started with it.

[1] https://reports.exodus-privacy.eu.org/en/reports/search/com.... [2] https://f-droid.org/en/packages/com.github.axet.maps/ [3] https://gitlab.com/axet/omim/issues/78 [4] https://f-droid.org/en/packages/net.osmand.plus/

Off-topic, but this was my first time hearing about Exodus and I spent quite a bit of time on there. How is it possible that Facebook has zero trackers? https://reports.exodus-privacy.eu.org/en/reports/71538/

Everything that happens in your Facebook app is saved directly into the Facebook infrastructure. They don't leak it to other companies, they just own it themselves.

For those other apps, they leak the tracking to 3rd party services. That's what those trackers are.

I've tried maps.me, but the one thing I was never able to figure out is my primary use case: how do I search for an address?

I can navigate to nearby bars or shops that it knows about, but if I want to navigate home, what do I do? Searching for an address just returns "no results found" instantly.

It depends on where I am. Where I live, OSM is quite good and I use that. In areas where OSM is not so good, I just download map images and refer to those by hand.

Not OP, but I waffle between apple maps and google maps. I leave google maps due to the privacy concerns, switch to apple maps, then get mislead a few times, then end back up on google maps. Rinse repeat.

Not OP, but been using Here maps and super happy. It's been said before but I'll say it again - amazing offline support.

A sextant

"It was clear that something was leaking my location, and that was being used to push ads to me through Android itself."

Android is leaking your location on purpose...

> Android is leaking your location on purpose...

Indeed, but it's possible to stop that. What I meant by "leaking" was that something was getting through despite my efforts to stop it.

Fortunately, the list of possible culprits was small, as I knew what I was allowing access to the internet and what I was not.

Google is really leaving the door open here for Apple to step in and offer a services bundle with a monthly fee that doesn’t involve stuffing advertising into every nook and cranny of the user experience.

I generally prefer Google’s services to Apple’s but there might be a tipping point soon where I’m willing to sacrifice some features in exchange for a generally less creepy product.

Apple maps still has a ways to go. I say this as someone who tries to use it frequently because I much prefer its UI, especially with Carplay. But it still has much worse traffic data, still sometimes sends me on weird routes through neighborhoods that don't save any time nor distance, and lately has a fun glitch where it sometimes instructs me turn left instead of right or vice/versa because it apparently thinks my vehicle is facing 180° from what it actually is. The turn glitch has now happened to me several times across two different devices. I thought I imagined it the first time.

Apple maps is inferior to Google in almost every respect in Asia. I open it now and again just to see if it’s improved and always switch back immediately to Gmaps. With hardware sales slowing Apple has a lot more incentive to improve it than they did when the iPhone gravy train seemed unstoppable though.

Yes, Apple Maps is inferior in Asia (speaking from India here). But it seems to be improving. I noticed that it uses many sources for maps, including TomTom. [1]

I’d read maybe a year or two ago that Apple was working on improving maps in other countries, but that effort was projected to be done or getting done by 2020 or 2021. Still a long way to go, but Apple isn’t ignoring it, like it used to seem a few years ago.

[1]: https://gspe21-ssl.ls.apple.com/html/attribution-136.html

In China I experienced that it's exactly the other way around.

Isn't Google maps blocked in China?

It is perfectly accessible, just a not a very good map over there. Once we wanted to go to a bar but it turned out that they moved a few years ago to a completely different part of Shanghai.

I've never used Apple maps, so I can't compare the two, but I can say that Google also really likes routing me through random twisty neighborhoods for no good reason.

"Pay for no ads" has failed with almost every attempt. Even Google has made products to do this that haven't succeeded.

It sure works well with YouTube.

Do you have evidence that Youtube Premium is giving a good ROI to Google? I always thought of it as one of their experiments that they will kill off in the not so distant future.

My wife and I pay $15/month for a family plan Play Music + ad free YouTube. How can Google not be making money on this, assuming a reasonable number of customers.

I would think that Google execs are looking at Apple’s new push for integrated services and that they will compete hard.

I am a happy customer of both Apple and Google but if Apple continues to come through with quality integrated services, I can see myself just living in Apple’s ‘walled garden’ in the future if they also keep supporting privacy.

> How can Google not be making money on this

Most Youtube users dont pay yet Google has to pay bandwidth costs for those free users.

I very much agree. I think they’ll kill yt premium. Even if google charges you what an average user is “worth” to them it’s a huge net negative to their business model. The users who will pay are worth a hell of a lot more to advertisers than the “average user”.

So charge $50/month. Frankly, I'd probably pay it. YouTube without the ads is actually pretty nice.

Unfortunately I can't argue with you and the other posters, in that it doesn't matter what they charge. If it's not seen as a positive career move to work on a given product at Google, its future is always going to be iffy. And Google is an advertising company at the end of the day, not a video streaming company.

And it's certainly true that the more someone is willing to pay to avoid ads, the more valuable to advertisers that person's attention is going to be.

> Google is really leaving the door open here for Apple [...] tipping point

It's 202X, and you are offered AR glasses from Apple, Amazon, AT&T, Comcast, Disney, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft. With almost-always-on mics, 180-degree cameras, gaze tracking, centimeter-resolution indoor position, and hybrid local/cloud infrastructure.

Who do you trust?

What is the net present value of that trust?

As of now, probably Apple if theirs costs a fortune compared to everyone else's glasses. At least then I know that they aren't subsidizing the cost of the glasses by selling off my information.

You are assuming people would pay for an ad free GMAPS. Google tried this with YouTube Red. It doesn't work.

Apple users may be willing to pay for apps, Android users don't swing that way.

Ad free won’t be enough. I predict there will be some kind of monthly bundle that includes a lot of different services. News, music, video and premium features on top of things like maps. Getting people to pay small amounts for a bunch of individual services is harder than charging them one lump sum per month for everything.

Heh, following the apple branding, they could call it google+

> News, music, video and premium features on top of things like maps.

I wonder how well such an approach would do. I know that it wouldn't interest me, as I don't want the "premium features" you mention, I'd just want maps. Others might only want the news and not the other stuff, etc.

But I don't know how many people are like me.

We can imagine something like 'an iPhone experience' pack for Android, and it's technically feasible - and may attract some attention from the customers.

But the question is - if you could get 'a pretty much iPhone' in your $200 Android for a couple of bucks a month, why would you ever buy an actual iPhone for $1000?

- Better battery life (if you disable background app refresh).

- Unified and consistent UI (subjective but I like it).

- No ads or privacy threats in general unless you try really hard to make them work on your iDevice.

- Guaranteed OS updates for 5+ years.

I'm probably forgetting some more.

An "iPhone experience" on an Android won't be even close to an iPhone. It could be used as a tease to prompt people to switch to an iPhone, though.

Google squandered all of their goodwill is why. People no longer believe they can maintain new initiatives long term.

iPhones don't appeal to me regardless of price point. I would guess that people for whom an iPhone-like experience is appealing would buy an iPhone. You can pick up older used models in the $200 price range right now.

>Google tried this with YouTube Red. It doesn't work.

I'm a Red/Premium subscriber, I love downloading my videos to my phone and, of course, no ads. What makes you say that it doesn't work?

The subscriber counts.

It may be a niche product but it works. Who pays gets the benefit of no ads plus others such as downloading videos to watch offline. I wonder if this product will end up in the google graveyard just because it has 1M paying users.

That's not my problem, is it?

> Google tried this with YouTube Red. It doesn't work.

YouTube Red isn't a good example. It seems to work just fine. Google is famous for being willing to cut loose efforts that don't work, and they haven't stopped YouTube Red -- they only rebranded it.

You are assuming Google can't make enough money from scraping location data to pay for Google maps. I doubt that. Adding ads just makes them more money on top.

People have been speculating that for yonks, though. If it's such a huge opportunity for Apple and so many people want it, where is it?

Apple has been very slow to expand their service offerings beyond Apple devices. Insane hardware revenues have made them complacent up until now. Their recent moves to start offering their video content on non-Apple platforms indicates that they finally understand that cross platform services are the key to their future growth IMO.

What about HERE Maps? I don't, ahem, hear much about them anymore since they were bought by an auto consortium.

Apple gets the wealthy high margin market, Google gets the mass market. People buy iPhones to keep up with fashion, but most of them won't pay for maps because they can't show that off to their acquaintances.

>People buy iPhones to keep up with fashion, but most of them won't pay for maps because they can't show that off to their acquaintances.

juvenile take, didnt realize people still went with the apple logo meme argument

Just because it's a meme, doesn't mean it isn't at least somewhat true.

There are high-end trend-driven Apple customers who update their hardware constantly, but there are also people who have a general preference for Apple products and update occasionally. I'm still on a 2013 MacBook Pro and an iPhone 6. Personally, hardware-wise I just like things that are a) made out of aluminum and b) have hi-dpi screens, and I appreciate a non-finicky BSD-derived OS.

Is that why? I thought I was buying iphones for the high quality, end-to-end user experience design, ecosystem integration, strict standards for third party apps, long-lasting hardware, and high resale value. Now I feel so silly.

You're not alone! I even bought an Apple Watch 4 once they were available here in Canada in order for to monitor my exercise, the high performance, and inter-connectivity with my other devices while maintaining privacy of my health data. Must be doing it wrong.

Agreed. I work from home. Nobody sees my iPhone, it's just for me.

Apple are absolute dicks about privacy. My Mom died, and I inherited her iPhone, which I discovered had Activation Lock… after I'd blanked it and installed a new OS.

Grovelled all over the internet trying to work out if there was a legitimate way to unlock the thing. Lots of probably scams out there but nothing plausible.

Turns out there was: in her papers, there was her account information, and I could log onto her AppleID and release the phone the way she would have if she'd known what was going to happen to her (she passed unexpectedly, with no real warning). Without that, I would have inherited a brick, and I'm not sure even the government would have been able to get in. From all accounts, if you try and plead with Apple you get nowhere.

I've got personal info on my iPhone, now that I unlocked it and installed my own identity on it.

I'm quite happy to continue using iPhones. If it costs more to have them monetized the old fashioned way, by charging me vast sums to get the device, that seems fair. It seems the alternative is to try to monetize ME in any way possible, and I don't trust any of these megacorporations too much.

You don't need to buy a new phone. I have an older model iPhone. It still gets security updates. I had to pay to replace the battery after a few years, but otherwise it works fine.

In fact, arguably better, since it has a headphone port ;)

Google tracks your exact location every few seconds. They know which stores you visit, which restaurants you frequent, which friends you spend the most time with, how often you go to the gym, who you're sleeping with and much more. The targeted advertising and surveillance capabilities that are possible as a result of this level of data collection are absolutely terrifying.

>surveillance capabilities that are possible as a result of this level of data collection are absolutely terrifying.

... and they share this data with the police and then some innocent people get entangled in this mess.



Is this assuming you have GPS on all the time or are you saying they're actively tracking everyone's locations using other means as well?

Previous discussion on companies tracking location using abilities outside of software permissions: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17081684

Google does not rely solely (or even primarily) on GPS for its location tracking. It also uses methods like triangulating based on what WiFi APs your device can see.

source please?

All of this has been well-known for years, and Google doesn't hide it (quite the opposite, this is a feature). Location tracking is done through three primary methods: GPS, triangulation from nearby WiFI APs, and triangulation based on what cell towers the device can see.

I recommend spending a little time searching the web and Google's Android developer pages for more, but here's a Quartz article that gives a decent overview: https://qz.com/1131515/google-collects-android-users-locatio...

If you're interested in being able to find your location under the most possible circumstances, you can't rely just on GPS because there are so many situations where GPS won't work.

Any Android phone with semi-recent Android version.

Here's the disclaimer from my phone: "Location may use sources like GPS, Wi-Fi, mobile networks, and sensors to help estimate your device's location. Google may collection location data periodically and use this data in an anonymous way to improve location accuracy and location-based services."

They have had similar-worded ones for a while now.

IIRC basically if the phone has GPS enabled it'll upload the list of visible APs from that location, so they can use that as an estimate for when a phone without GPS is nearby.

Yes. They publish that online, too, as part of their privacy policy: https://policies.google.com/privacy

What evidence is your statement based on? On iPhone Google Maps only has access to your location while the app is in use, that means either when A) the app is open or B) it's in the background and there is a blue background around the clock indicating the map is in use.

Check out https://www.google.com/maps/timeline to see what positions they have saved.

That doesn't list who you're sleeping with. Their point was that GP was exaggerating.

If two people have their phones in the same room every night, I think Google can make presumptions on the situation.

That they live in the same high rise? That they're roommates? Again, this is further to GP's point about exaggeration.

They can easily obtain the SSID of the network they are at and that's it. Or scrape the Uber receipt from relevant gmail accounts the morning after with the appropriate time stamps. It's trivial with a reasonable degree of confidence to deduce it.

Because roommates don't share the same wifi? Or friends crash on each others couches and take an uber the next day? What's next, are you going to say the Nest cam is watching them in the bedroom? Again, this is all hyperbole.

Welcome to 2014 http://www.whosdrivingyou.org/blog/ubers-deleted-rides-of-gl...

I'm not claiming Google does this, I'm claiming this is very trivial. Of course it will be probabilistic so you can claim something with 95% chance of being true. That's good enough for advertising purposes or just to be put in a box called 'likely to have a one night stand'.

And it's still not enough.

> Before the changes, Owczarek’s startup got 750,000 free map views a month and then was charged 50 cents for every 1,000 views on top of that. Then Google started charging after 30,000 views and the cost was $7 per 1,000 views. His costs jumped from nothing to $5,000 a month.

Ouch. How could that possibly be worth it? Are they just trying to squeeze money out of businesses that are already locked into the Maps API? It seems hard to believe that your average startup that needs a map widget (like, for food or pharmacy delivery) would go with Maps instead of OpenStreetMap at that price level.

Although I appreciate the effort that has gone into and continues to go into OpenStreetMap the reality is that their data set is still pretty poor in comparison to Google Maps. I would not want to create a delivery business that depended upon it for success.

Just last month I found myself in need of a source of map data for a personal use application and thought of OpenStreetMap which led me to looking up my home address. Unfortunately I couldn't find my address by searching, so I zoomed in on my neighborhood. About 50% of the street names in my neighborhood were incorrect, so I spent time correcting them. The last time I had visited OpenStreetMap was about 4 years prior. On that visit about 1/3rd of the streets in my then neighborhood didn't appear.

> the reality is that their data set is still pretty poor in comparison to Google Maps.

That entirely depends on where you are. In the US, there are lots of places where OSM is fully equal to Google Maps. There are other places where it's just downright bad.

If you're in one of the places where OSM maps are good, then they're the way to go. If you're not, and you're not willing to contribute the data required to improve them, then you probably want a different solution.

Guessing you're American? OSM is very often better than Google in Europe and other parts of the world. It's spottier in the US.

Agreed on that. Although in Canada the OSM data seemed really, really good when it came to national parks and trails. Not so much inside Vancouver. (Still enough for navigation by car and on foot, but finding addresses was a major PITA.)

Maps has been awful and getting worse for a long time.

If it's not routing me 25+ miles further to save "1 minute" (really a multi-minute slowdown in the 90th percentile) then its failing to give comprehensible directions in order to interpose business names.

Maybe the monetization is finally makes competing with it attractive enough.

And the app has become absolutely atrocious performance-wise. It used to load nearly immediately, but starting ~1.5 years ago I began noticing extreme slowdowns. Now it's barely functional for me. Every part of the UI is appallingly unresponsive -- taps that take 5 seconds to register, hitches in animation, etc. From tapping on the icon to being able to get underway (including typing in an address) used to be about five seconds or less. Now it's upwards of thirty.

This coming change to their monetization (really? mining our location data isn't enough?) is just going to be the final impetus I need to find some other solution.

On my old iPhone the performance is still fine, but the volume controls have been broken for ages. Basically you can only change the volume while it is speaking (otherwise it changes the ringer volume). So you have to guess when the phone is speaking and then smash the volume up button in the hopes that you guessed correctly. And of course you have to do this blind because you're driving at the time to trigger the turn prompt. Very annoying.

Settings -> Sounds & Haptics -> Change With Buttons: OFF. Now the volume controls will only ever change the audio volume and never the ringer volume.

FYI, if you are using an android, you can try google maps go which is designed to run on devices with limited memory [0].

[0]: https://support.google.com/maps/answer/7566112?hl=en

Thanks, I remember seeing this before but assumed it was a junk copy-cat app.

The list of features it doesn't support is exactly the same list of things I don't care about. Nice! I just installed, and it seems to be a minimal app using a chrome wrapper. So it's basically a webpage... I will have to see how its navigation works.

Offline maps has always been a sticking point for me, I consider offline maps to be pretty core functionality for any map app.

I've noticed this too. I think it applies to most of their apps. I've had an issue since early April where a certain gmail account crashes the mail app (one account out of four only - it's not just me with this issue https://support.google.com/mail/thread/3994942).

The only fix is to remove all updates and revert to the original version of the app, and the UI experience is so much better. I'd forgotten how fast it was. I might just keep it like this.

What killed GMaps for me was the dogged insistence that the correct route through the city involves making left turns onto busy multilane roads at rush hour from a side street with a stop sign, just to avoid a half-block of stopped traffic waiting for a left turn signal.

On the other hand I was on the interstate the other day and it told me to get off and take a detour, I ended up avoiding a massive backup. I don't always take the advice, but man I like having the opportunity.

Waze tells me that stuff too. About an hour before I would have arrived at a major accident, it had notified me about a detour onto a parallel highway I should take. As I got closer, it told me to take an earlier exit because the original one was starting to get backed up from people trying to detour. I got off the highway and got back on with only a minute delay in my ETA.

I usually switch between Google Maps and Waze depending on where I'm going and how soon I want to get there. Google Maps if I'm in no hurry and want to take the "normal" way. Waze for if I'm trying to get there sooner (speed trap alerts and shortcuts help) and I'm either somewhat familar with the route or don't care about the stupid shortcuts. Waze has had me cut through neighborhoods and drive down gravel access roads to shave minutes off the travel time. Most of the time it pays off, sometimes you just end up wasting more time at intersections

Same. I ignored it once and got stuck in a traffic jam with construction that was there the week before.

It's just incredible that they don't offer an option to avoid left turns. This is something major freight carriers figured out a decade or more ago.

Interestingly I started using GMaps instead of Waze exactly for this. Waze loves sightseeing and meeting new people on cozy little streets.

This is configurable in Waze at least. There's a "Avoid difficult intersections" option in the Navigation settings.

Waze will take you on the shortest route - every time - even if that means cutting through a suburb taking the least amount of time to get to the destination. GMaps sticks to main roads as much as possible.

Do you mean rerouting? Google Maps is tuned differently than Waze, which caters to drivers looking to shave off minutes or even seconds. It tries to keep directions simple and easier to follow (e.g. not making a large number of turns), even if that means a slightly slower route. That was a deliberate product decision, at least until a few years ago.

What kind of incomprehensible directions and business names are you referring to?

Waze feels more like the R&D app for maps. It doesn't shave seconds or minutes off my time, but what it does do is constant A/B testing to see if another route could be faster. I know the area fairly well and I routinely ignore the route Waze wants to send me unless there is a clearly identified problem on the normal route, and when it re-routes to the path I chose, it's a minute or two shorter. Why did it try to send me down the slower route in the first place? Waze pulls this crap routinely.

> testing to see if another route could be faster [...] and when it re-routes to the path I chose, it's a minute or two shorter

Anecdotes != data, but I'm pretty sure I've experienced this with Google Maps as well.

You already have other mapping options like Garmin. And you don't have to pay much for them either. They are 100-300 bucks. They work pretty well... and could really use a boost in what seemed like a dying market.

> mapping options like Garmin

Except Garmin - having been decimated by Google and Apple maps - is getting pretty bad too. I've been using them for >15 years with multiple devices and every update lately seems to make their routing worse AND for some unfathomable reason makes the GPS reception less reliable (if I were a sceptic I'd suggest they are trying to force you to go for a new model via slowly crippling the device with every update).

What I wonder is why Google spends tons of CPU resources to calculate routes that would take me much longer to get where I'm going.

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