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Google Maps' Moat Is Evaporating (joemorrison.substack.com)
628 points by ephesee on Dec 29, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 427 comments

I worked at a company that heavily used the maps API in 2018. The 1,400% price hike really was an eye opener. It wasn't just the money involved, which was large, but the fact that it came so suddenly and with so much magnitude.

Google's choice to bump these prices made me realize that they could do the same thing with their compute cloud pricing or other APIs, again with little notice. That, in turn, led to the realization that we needed to remove our reliance on Google's entire stack, and quickly, or we'd be in a terrible bargaining position later.

This one choice by the maps team likely cost Google significantly in the medium to long term, if any other companies realized the same things we did.

Google's fundamental relationship with users is statistical, and I think it shows. They're very good at optimizing metrics; their search, for example has remained the leader 20+ years on. In that world, if you lose a few users or give a bad experience, well, there are plenty more where those came from, and the ones who leave will often come back.

I think they mistakenly bring that attitude to their consumer businesses, though. The stories of bad customer experiences are legion. Like you, I've learned that I can't really trust them. Which is true of all companies, of course, but it's different with Google. Amazon is even more rapacious, but I trust them to be long-term greedy, to not shoot themselves in the foot with some short-sighted action. For all their flaws, they understand that customer relationships have long-term value.

Every AWS product I've used has gotten cheeper over the years (excluding the free tier / beta free periods)

This is true per "equivalent" unit of generic computing, but some older instance types have gone up in price (presumably to encourage people to migrate their stuff onto newer hardware).

This is completely reasonable - but a pain when you have a box that works perfectly and you have to upgrade the software to cope with a new hypervisor driver/layer.

Not just compute. Storage and data transfer have also trended lower in my experience.

Well sure, but when S3 costs $22 per Terabyte per month, it is easy to reduce the price

thats pretty cheap considering the convenience and availability it offers

One of the things I really like about Hetzner is that they auction off the older dedicated servers for cheaper. It should make economic sense to do the right thing.

> very good at optimizing metrics... shoot themselves in the foot with some short-sighted action.

Their optimization strategy informed them to shoot their customers in the foot.

And maybe all their metrics say that in the grand scheme of things, shooting some customers in the foot is the better strategy compared to not shooting them in the foot. Sometimes via deliberate price hikes, sometimes via shoddy support channels and discontinued products.

The big questions are whether their metrics factor in customers who avoid google's products to begin with, knowing they might end up getting shot in the foot, or whether they have a moral obligation to not shoot their customers even if they can make more money that way.

enterprise and consumer markets are so different. The same management leading on both fronts is unheard of and very unlikely at larger orgs.

At Google's scale they are optimized and oriented for the consumer market with their horrendous pricing strategies, poor customer service, negligent backward compatibility and pseudo-monopolistic products and offerings.

As a consumer, I can live with the lack of trust. From a business perspective I cannot live with that.

> Amazon is even more rapacious,

In what way? It seems a bit like stone throwing to immediately toss another company into the conversation without providing some anecdote.

I mean, at a minimum, their habit of using customer data from their platform businesses to inform development of their own competing products is pretty sketchy.

That's SOP in retail though. Walmart/Target/Home Depot/Best Buy/Whole Wallet, knows exactly what sells and use that to inform their own brands. And they kind of need to be tracking and analyzing those things in order to do their job.

Any store that uses a rewards, loyalty card or phone number when you checkout does the same. I'm not sure why Amazon is the bad guy when grocery stores have been distributing private brands of mainstream products and shopper loyalty has been used to optimize revenue streams. Amazon does it on a bigger scale, not sure the scale makes it right or wrong though.

Your theory is that if other large companies do something, it must be morally acceptable?

Even if that's true, which I'm not persuaded of, Amazon's enormous market power makes a big difference. As a consumer, I don't want Amazon to "optimize revenue streams" when that reduces the reward to market participants to be innovative and deliver high quality.

> Your theory is that if other large companies do something, it must be morally acceptable

You left something out, "as long as it doesn't effect me (yet), and large companies do it, it must be morally acceptable." I don't know why we defend them. Without Google we still go on. Without us, or support for their practices, they dramatically change or they disappear.

To be fair, these are generally the companies that have got us through the pandemic relatively unscathed.

From GP: <Without Google we still go on.>

> Your theory is that if other large companies do something, it must be morally acceptable?

Why did your comment single out Amazon and not the practice of 'immorally' tracking customers?

From their marketplace business, not their platform business

One pretty obvious way is how they treat workers. Despite being a customer for more than 20 years, this year I canceled my Amazon Prime membership and now avoid using them. If you're unfamiliar, you can find an ocean of material by googling "Amazon labor exploitation".

> Google's choice to bump these prices made me realize that they could do the same thing with their compute cloud pricing or other APIs, again with little notice. That, in turn, led to the realization that we needed to remove our reliance on Google's entire stack, and quickly, or we'd be in a terrible bargaining position later.

Yes. You are right. The whole cloud deal is a try to rule out on premise infrastructure and once it is gone and everyone is dependent on it (due to lost of knowledge, and for cloud providers ideally when hardware vendors are no longer selling hardware to non cloud entities) harvest the dependent businesses left at their mercy and charge dearly (including for all the years before that). It is actually not even a complicated plan but it is staggering how many people are putting cloth over their eyes.

These two comments make me see SaaS more like paying rent for housing:

If we become fully dependent on a service (shelter) and then the provider (landlord) jacks up the price, we may be quickly forced to switch services (homes) or be out of business (homeless).

In many places landlords cannot suddenly jack up the price, but can only increase it in small amounts year by year. One could similarly imagine rent controls on digital services, where sudden price hikes are simply not allowed, and terminating the rental agreement one-sided is similarly restricted. The practical downsides of that kind of legislation would probably end up quite similar to rent controls.

Yes! I've found that I sometimes will keep a subscription, even if I'm not currently using it, because I've been locked in at the old price, and can feel really annoyed when they increase the price by a significant amount or percentage and force me to adopt it.

About rent control, yup, it may have the ups and downs of real estate rent control :-)

I'm also wondering, with physical real estate, there is a tangible limit to how many people can rent the space, whereas SaaS seems to make up arbitrary user limits. But maybe I'm wrong, and there is a limited number of users because each user has variable costs—in the housing analogy, utilities like water, space, wear & tear on the place, etc., and in the SaaS space, customer service, server space...I can't think of any more but maybe they're there...

Do not forget that in the case of cloud services you have to pay "landlord" for the stuff you move (bandwidth and volume needed to migration).

Ha, good point, perhaps that'd be like paying your landlord for utilities like water or electricity usage, but could also be paying for every time you have guests visit the house or you go up and down the stairs.

unfortunately when we switch services(homes) all of our electrical devices(code) now need to be changed to work with the different way the new service(home) is wired. At this point the analogy breaks down.

Hmm. Maybe it's a spectrum, where some situations are like moving homes and others are like like moving cities (need to find a new dentist, doctor, etc) or moving countries (need to learn a new language, learn new laws, get new electrical outlet adapters, etc).

Do you think those resonate better?

I think as the size of the application increases and the API you are switching out increases in importance to the functioning of that application then the analogy of moving from home goes up from moving apartments(my small side project), to moving cities (my small side project turned into a startup that has been running half a year but isn't especially profitable yet), to moving countries (my application that many large organizations use with all sorts of different functionality built in to support the needs of those organizations)

Well said. As it becomes more complex and intertwined, technologically and socially (employees, customers, etc), then it becomes harder to change. Thanks for helping to refine the analogy!

I like this analogy. I think a good idea is to sign a long term (1 year to multiple years) contract with cloud providers.

A long term contract pretty much guarantees that the company will lose the institutional knowledge to run things on premises.

Think about it, if the company has sysadmins that have been with the company for some years, have racked and are running most of their infrastructure, and all of a sudden they sign a long term contract with a cloud provider, why would they stay?

There are different use cases.

It’s possible that the company do not have all that infrastructure at all.

I also don’t see the importance of ‘knowledge to run things on premise’ for most people.

Technologies change very fast and if I can pay a reliable provider with a fixed price for the years that I intend to use it, why do I have to know how to use it?

If I can hire a gardener to take care of things for a reasonable price, I don’t care if I have any knowledge.

This is a danger, although the cloud is still just VMs and networks that still need configuring and patching. Agreed people who would run physical hardware would be gone.

I think there's a risk here but I'm not sure it goes as far as you suggest. There are still plenty of entities, particularly larger ones, that buy their own metal because at some scales it becomes far cheaper to run in a COLO (at least acc to near monthly articles posted on HN). I'd therefore put the risk that only big vendors will be able to buy hardware as low. That said, as ARM or custom chips gain market share within cloud providers, there's a risk that x86 or standard suppliers will struggle, but AMD/Intel see this too and surely one or both will adapt.

On skills I think there's a small risk of people not knowing how to manage/set up their own racks, but doing a passable job there isn't that hard. On general sys-admin stuff, cloud infrastructure seems to have parallels to hardware infrastructure, so it shouldn't be completely unfamiliar to set up a hardware router/network/linux server. There are definitely skills and details missing (remote admin tools for hardware maybe), but this doesn't seem like a big gap to bridge if $$$ is on the line?

If those entities would be any risk, they would already be bought.

Or they will be long gone due to google/aws/microsoft price dumping. In meanwhile, the openly accessible technology / know-how will be gone or hired by them and there will be no one left. Just look around, how many people you know that are capable of handling on-premise server? What about farm of servers without using any of google/aws/microsoft technology?

This just isn't something new.

It is just another case of "historia magistra vitae". We had this, 30-40 years back, we had centralized environment (have you heard about mainframes before?), due to huge price pumping the decentralized environment came in (personal computers, internet, on premise servers, storage, ...). IT needed almost 20 years to get out of the hooks of corporations and now we are all diving in into the latest "cool" thing - centralization, now backed up by advertising revenues and shady practices like not showing your company on google search.

This is not a joke: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_litigation

And you can bet the history repeats itself.


Let me show you my point and where it is going, lets do a tiny experiment - use your router/firewall/whatever you are fond of and block the following ASNs:



Now try to surf the internet. Casual style. As nothing happened.

Baidu (China) and Yandex (Russia) will still work from search engines. Duckduckgo not (shame on you). As any other you know. "The internet" as you know it will stop to exist for you. You know what you have blocked with those ASNs? Only 3 companies. Google. Amazon. Microsoft.

For complete experience you can also throw in AS714,AS6185,AS2709 and AS63293,AS54115,AS32934 (Apple, Facebook), but those two are not really relevant.

Maybe this will be eye opening how much we have f* up the internet, something that should survive 3rd world war is now mostly in the hands of 3 companies. Now imagine they pull the switch.

Oh yeah, that bad it is.

> Maybe this will be eye opening how much we have f up the internet, something that should survive 3rd world war is now mostly in the hands of 3 companies. Now imagine they pull the switch.*

I see people frequently quoting the bit about how the Internet was designed to withstand a nuclear war. But that quote was about packet switching. I.e. layer 2/3. Not layer 7. Application layer is, as you nicely demonstrate, very centralized, and was never immune to nuclear war.

Admittedly I know few, but not zero. That said they’re all relatively older and have been in the business for a while. I used to manage a team with 4 racks, ~40 machines at a COLO. When we hired for new people, it was usually older folks who had the experience necessary. Maybe you’re right and I agree the concentration is disturbing.

My only response is that when I look at bigger orgs and places like Fortune 500 cos I still see/hear about home built server farms, so those people must be out there. I think maybe we get blinded in startup/SV land and only see people using cloud infrastructure but miss a huge, silent mass of people.

Depending on the nature of the business it can be cheaper to run own servers even for smaller companies. I see that in Norway quite a few places see that and the pool of qualified people to run them is not small.

HN is missing a `word-break: break-all` on their `default p` class.

(Your reply with an unbroken word that spans larger than the page width forced my page to grow (horizontal scrollbar))

Sorry, I didn't notice it, thank you for reminder, I have added manual breaks.

I've added some more. Sorry; it's our bug.

I wonder whether there will emerge some design patterns in apps to enable easy switching between on-premises and cloud infra.

Thinking about it logically, the safest approach is always going to be build for on-premises infra first (or standard VPSs), then modify the code to support cloud services in addition, to get the added benefits of scaling at cheaper costs.

That way you can always switch back to on-premises if the cloud provider starts behaving terribly. Perhaps there is a performance hit, but at least you have an option.

Worth mentioning that there are some use cases that are only possible using cloud infra due to scaling constraints.

This is the approach I took building my SaaS. It’s more difficult initially, but I had an infra that could easily be moved. I was using my own version of backend queues etc, so modifying the code to switch to Amazon SQS would theoretically have been possible:


> It is actually not even a complicated plan but it is staggering how many people are putting cloth over their eyes.

These are changes that are happening on a timescale much larger than the average lifespan of a cloud-based product/system. I think people building things in the cloud know it, or at least feel it, and so just don't care about long-term - because in the long term they expect to be rich and/or doing something else. In the meantime, ooh cheap compute, billable as opex - let's build everything on it!

AWS is already incredibly profitable while continuing to lower prices over time. What makes you think they would choose to run this scheme and forever ruin their reputation?

The point is that nobody expected Google to just hike their price for mapping by 1400% overnight. If they can do it with one product, what’s stopping anyone else in a similar dominant market position doing the same?

Culture, and the reputation it earns.

I’m no amazon apologist, but one thing I trust them to do is keep my things running as they are.

And what’s your contingency if they decide that they’re going to hike the price because Jeff’s underwater lair has sprung a leak?

This got downvoted for (I presume) triteness, but there's an important underlying point: Amazon's actions (or anyone else's) don't have to look rational from the outside to really mess up your day.

I’d actually worry more about post bezos Amazon, he’s been running the show for years, it’s predictable- after..

In a world where there are three players, culture and reputation are not worth much, if not only at the beginning. Maybe 5/10/15 years from now the software and competencies to manage bare metal will be only behind the doors of those three companies, and at that point it will be economically convenient for them to act as a cartel and increase prices.

I don't see that happening. As someone who manages bare metal, there's not that much to it besides using a pxe installer. Didn't even use that before we got 20 servers, would just configure IPMI physically the mount the ubuntu ISO via IPMI and manually install the OS at the office.

Ubuntu is actually heavily investing into MAAS (metal as a service) and so is Redhat with cobbler and foreman. So I'm guessing there's enough demand to justify their development (as every major cloud provider uses in house tools AFAIK)

That’s one of the arguments for multi vendor sourcing. The same price negotiation tactic occurs in other industries.

It’s why google buys non intel chips. Come negotiation time there’s a serious threat they can leave. And there’s a serious rfp out to other vendors for pricing. Bringing their intel chip costs down.

If that happens I know of a few young companies who will step in and fill the void at a cheaper price.

Still raw from a gaming platform we built for progress/matchup on App Engine (GAE) early on in 2011 for a popular racing matchup game. We chose App Engine due to flexibility, scaling and price.

One day Google increased prices and our costs went up x5-x10 on AppEngine [1][2]. We then had to move to AWS over the next few weeks early on in launch. It caused push back on other projects and was generally a bad time that wasn't necessary.

That isn't the way to build trust and we have used AWS and now Azure more than Google Cloud for this reason in the decade since.

Google has great tools, but you simply cannot do shock pricing on the cloud, it is the biggest fear of everyone that uses the cloud or has to recommend it. Google made us look bad by choosing them over AWS, later we also use Azure.

We like to build our systems for horizontal scaling, on cheaper machines, we weren't even doing much but it was suddenly out of budget and left everyone feeling burned by Google. I love Google and their tools, but they have to be careful with the rug pulling and knee capping people that choose large projects to develop on their products and platforms.

Don't make people look bad for choosing your product and especially don't surprise people with pricing or dropping products. If it was a better planned price increase we could have taken time to move off more slowly or even optimized to run on it, but since it was so sudden it was shocking. Since that moment they have lost lots of projects to Google Cloud that would have gone there.

We literally never expected it because AWS was a force, Azure was still new, and we thought Google would be price competitive to AWS and Azure while looking to gain customers trust as cloud products were something that didn't seem like you'd want to do any drastic changes to customers as they can be long term customers if things go well.

[1] https://www.theregister.com/2011/09/02/google_app_engine_use...

[2] https://www.infoq.com/news/2011/09/app-engine-price-hike/

I means it's always good to reduce reliance on anything, so I won't argue against that, but I won't agree much with your reasoning.

The cost we were actually paying on the Google Maps API was hidden. The cost was mostly paid using user data and advertising. As a matter of fact, the API is still free on smartphone ;). They just realized that it wasn't worth it to get that data on the web and thus increased the cost to the true price. The fact that there was already some competition to Google Maps which was much more expensive tells a lot.

That's not something that's going to happen on the cloud though. You pay the real cost, they aren't monetizing it from a side channel (though they may profit a tiny bit on the side by lowering their infrastructure cost, it's not the goal and I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't used their own cloud offering that much). The profit come from the price, not the user data.

It wouldn't be a good idea for them to increased theses prices, as competition exist/can exist, and they would just hurt themselves on the long term.

Unexpected pricing changes have already happened to Google Cloud offerings in the past. Google completely redesigned their App Engine pricing scheme in 2011. In practice this meant a 65x price increase for one of my small services. [1] Among the changes was that the 2008-2011 pricing was based on CPU usage, while in 2011 they stopped charging for CPU usage and instead introduced a slew of other pricing metrics, including the classic VM instance idle time.

While the pricing changes frustrated me, they did not drive me away. What ended up having a much bigger impact was that Google just deprecated everything. Some parts of classic App Engine still run in legacy mode, but get no updates and instead you get constant notifications that you should rewrite your app to fit the new Google Cloud model.


[1] https://www.kaurkuut.com/blog/google-app-engine-is-a-classic...

> Google's choice to bump these prices made me realize that they could do the same thing with their compute cloud pricing

At least in the cloud computing space, Google is an also-ran thanks to Amazon. They were able to play this game with Maps because they didn't have a healthy competitor. If they screwed with pricing as a distant second place competitor they'd be toast.

> This one choice by the maps team likely cost Google significantly in the medium to long term, if any other companies realized the same things we did.

It definitely did. What they did with Maps is exactly why I would never, ever consider running anything critical with Google.

"This one choice by the maps team likely cost Google significantly in the medium to long term"

Reminiscent of the Google Reader thing. Google Reader was used by, in global terms, a tiny number of people. But today those same people get to make purchasing decisions at a large array of well funded companies, and they're still bitter about Reader shutting down.

I'm still dirty on goggle for announcing retirement of cloud print a few weeks after I got it all set up.

Can't agree more.

Mapbox responded to Google raising prices by raising their prices.

Is it likely that Azure and Amazon would do similar if they raised prices on GCP?

Google was the dominant provider of maps I'm guessing by a large margin. GCP is not the dominant provider of cloud services (they're third or distant third).

Yes, that's my point. There's clearly competition in compute. That Mapbox raised prices after Google did points to maps not being terribly cut throat (I think Mapbox got lots of low value load when Google upped prices, load that they then subsequently decided to shed by upping prices). Other map data providers were already more expensive than Google.

So that means it should be safer to rely on GCP (or in general on services where Google is not dominant) than something like Maps where it is dominant.

Unless GCP is priced lower than competitors in which case their prices may rise to match them like with hosted kubernetes.

I think they're fourth and falling: AWS, Azure, Ali, GCP. I think the IBM cloud is gaining on GCP.

Worse than that, every 1 position drop market share halves: ~50%, ~25%, 12%, 6%.

Curious to know if AWS has ever hiked the price of any of its services.

In 11 years of using it, I've never seen AWS increase the price for a service whose cost inputs they controlled entirely. It can happen, though. They increased AWS Pinpoint costs because their cost to send SMSes in India increased by 25% due to a regulatory action that increased the price for all SMS traffic in India.

Often, AWS's prices are _really_ high for new services. I think this is useful for two reasons: it ensures your early adopters are those who get the most value, and it gives you a big buffer when discovering how much it actually costs to operate. This usually guarantees that prices have only one way to go. For example, AWS IoT Device Management had a 90% price cut after it was introduced.

> Often, AWS's prices are _really_ high for new services. I think this is useful for two reasons: it ensures your early adopters are those who get the most value, and it gives you a big buffer when discovering how much it actually costs to operate.

I've thought about this concept a few times lately.

Like, I get the impression that a savvy business, when starting a new product with very little competition, should start with prices as bad and guarantees as low as they can get away with, because they can always improve their offer later, whereas going the other way runs into loss aversion and consumer alienation.

Eg it's better to start at 40$/month and lower to 30$/month after a year than to start at 20$/month and get a lot of angry users when you realize you need 30 to break even.

I wonder if there's a name for that concept.

The name of the concept is price skimming. The rationale mentioned by the parent is also stated in its Wikipedia entry [1].

Many may not know that behind the scenes, Amazon hires economists just like their big tech peers MS, Google.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Price_skimming#Reasons_for_pri...


No, they have stopped reducing the prices of existing services once they become depricated, so they effectively become more expensive compared to other services but never increased.

Although reselling other products, such as RDS Oracle or MSSQL could potentially have increased if the licences fees went up.

But I don't think that is what you are referring to.

Did all of the major providers raise their prices after?

This really does seem like a shortsighted move given they’re seemingly pretty serious about Google Cloud, and their Maps Platform is apparently part of that: https://cloud.google.com/maps-platform

AFAIK AWS has never increased their prices for anything ever, Google Cloud once increased the price of a service by 1400%. That takes Google Cloud out of consideration for me for anything I don’t want to have to or can’t (because of vendor lock-in) move to another service with very little notice.

> That, in turn, led to the realization that we needed to > remove our reliance on Google's entire stack, and quickly > or we'd be in a terrible bargaining position later.

Always keep deployments vendor-agnostic. I'm very very happy on AWS, but I could literally deploy to Google Cloud or Rackspace in an hour if need be. I run my own Linux servers, Elasticsearch and RabbitMQ servers, and though I do use and love RDS, I could just as easily move to a self-installed MySQL server. And I don't use the AWS DNS services, rather I trust that only with my registrar who I am very very happy with.

I went through the same journey and never built on Google Map APIs ever again. The unreliability hurt more than the money. There's something pure about using a capitalistic API (e.g. AWS, Stripe, Twilio) where you know they're making a good buck off your usage, whereas with Google it felt like a side business that they'd change on a whim.

I feel similarly about brokerage accounts that are upfront about charging a transaction fee or checking accounts that have a clear minimum or fee. When it's "free", I'm always scared that I'll end up paying another way and what I'm relying on will get washed away.

That's exactly what you should expect when anything comes into monopoly. When you have no alternatives, any price could be the best offer for you. For the same reason, when I have to use cloud, I would try to avoid anything that deeply binding to a particular vendor by using IaaS or PaaS so that we can bail out when something went sour.

> This one choice by the maps team

Probably wasn’t the maps team that made the decision. Let’s not confuse the ace team that put out a leading-class product with their idiot management.

I really want to use Apple Maps full time on my iPhone, just because of how much clutter Google Maps has accumulated on the screen.

If anything tells me Google is losing the ability to innovate it's the newly added pill buttons for pre-set searches and branded POIs on the map. I remember when this was added to MapQuest circa 2010, and was the transition from trying to have an excellent mapping experience to just adding revenue focused features.

Google is still operating from an extremely strong position, by nature of having nearly infinite budget and owning their mapping and search dataset. It's concerning that the iOS app seems to be suffering from the same issues that preceded the gradual downfall of MapQuest from a product perspective.

It’s incredibly clear from the outside that Google is an organizational mess that struggles to make product decisions and keep them. From the surprisingly bad UX of a lot of their services, to the random creation and destruction of services and apps. It all reeks of bad political infighting.

A few weeks ago someone here (or was it on Reddit?) explained this: Since Google found advertising to be a huge hose where money pours out like crazy, they're trying to find another such hose.

I think that explains a lot of their behaviour and why they're even shutting down seemingly successful (from a user's view) services - because they don't earn enough money.

Another big point is that to be successful at Google, you have to create new projects. Nobody gets promoted by maintaining existing projects. Also, it seems as if there's no communication between groups. So if a group gets reassigned or key people leave, their project (e.g. the umpteenth messenger app) gets sunset, too.

I don't think this is all political, but rather they're aimlessly throwing projects at the wall to see which stick.

> Since Google found advertising to be a huge hose where money pours out like crazy, they're trying to find another such hose.

Other than advertising, which scales like crazy and has negligible unit costs, there isn't much that would meaningfully move the needle at Google scale. Cloud computing would work there, but it's definitely a lower margin business than selling ads online, since there are actual costs for hardware and ongoing software maintenance.

> I don't think this is all political, but rather they're aimlessly throwing projects at the wall to see which stick.

Which is kind of funny, because a decade or so ago, Larry Page said that they'd put "more wood behind fewer arrows." [0] That article even mentions Google+:

> Can Google still push the creative envelope without a testing facility? That’s yet to be proven. Although last month’s successful launch of Google+ could be taken as an early indication that Google’s knack for inventiveness will live on outside of the lab.

In retrospect, that didn't age too well.

[0] https://news.yahoo.com/more-wood-behind-fewer-arrows-google-...

I guess that's move fast and fail fast for you. It's like a weed generating lots of tiny seeds to make sure as many potentially fertile spots as possible get explored.

Speaking of organizational mess and product decisions...

I find it shocking how bad Hangouts is.

It's so convenient. Chat, built right into Gmail. It works. But. BUT.

- It does not support video. Drop in a video, and you get a bizarre error message telling you to try "JPG, PNG, GIF, BMP, TIFF, and HEIFimage files" (sic) instead. https://twitter.com/dcposch/status/1303193761313206272

- Tiny little chat windows. No replies, no reactions. Basic UX that feels like abandonware from 2010.

- If you have Google Fi, you can take phone calls thru Hangouts, but you cannot send or receive text messages (??)

I just feel bad for whatever rump team of a few engineers has to maintain that product. They are plainly caught on the wrong end of some strange and gross internal politics.

Google has a self-defeating practice of emphasizing "new products shipped" in their promotion packets. That probably explains why their army of PMs has, instead of improving Hangouts for a billion Gmail users, chosen to create the following instead: Google Meet, Duo, "Google Chat", and an endless parade of now-cancelled apps like Allo.

Is Google Maps an example of this? I think it's very clearly an app which dominated the market by offering best-in-class service for untenable prices (Maps API used to be free for developers up to an absurd amount) and is adding monetization elements now that it dominates the market.

That's every VC's dream isn't it?

Yes, of course, except that the decision-making has shifted towards priorities that do not benefit the customer, though they used to.

I have no interest in seeing where the nearest McDonalds is, unless I search for it. POI markers for places I need to go (via bookings/appointments) are good, but POIs for places I have never been are bad.

For whatever reason I can never see the street name I want to see anymore. Between the excessive labelling, there is simply no space, and Maps decides to prioritise other labels instead of the STREET NAME.

When I am navigating, I really _really_ need to know the street name.

> For whatever reason I can never see the street name I want to see anymore.

It's been this way for years, and it's my #1 gripe with Maps. It's particularly bad in a dense grid like NYC, where some streets only appear for a block or two. If Maps doesn't decide to print the name on that block...I guess I'm not allowed to know what street that is?

Yes, you're right, it's been aggravating me for years.

I vaguely recall reading about this on HN when it happened, and the consensus was that the logic for determining whether to print the street label had been changed for aesthetic reasons.

Peak form over function.

Anecdotally, I don't see any rhyme nor reason for whether it decides to show the street name or not. Oftentimes, it will value a side-street over the main street, and in _some_ cases this makes sense (e.g. you are on the larger street, and want to see intersecting streets), but Maps doesn't seem to read contextual clues... if I am not navigating, or zooming in from further away, showing larger streets first would be better.

I don’t think I’ve seen any mapping program show dense streets that well, from MapQuest to Microsoft Streets to maps.me to Google Maps.

I’ve worked on similar problems and it’s not the easiest to solve. And I’ve never solved it because it was never that important of problem to solve and we just moved on to the next issue.

I would say the other POI markers do serve one value, and that is with regards to finding a place... if you notice it's right behind the McDonalds, then you know you are close when you see the big M from the street. Similar for strip malls.

That's true, but it's not Google's intent. It's just another source of ad/promotional revenue. The POIs show up before I search anything. A more user focused solution would wait until I selected a destination, detect that where I'm going is a less frequented, and then display something along the lines of "Hey it looks like this location can be difficult to find, here's some near by stores to look for <insert recognizable brands>."

To be fair it doesn't matter what Google's intent is, I use this feature for that purpose all the time.

Until you come to Japan and realize that most of the streets don't have a name, and the addresses look more like random numbers than coordinates :)

>I really want to use Apple Maps full time on my iPhone, just because of how much clutter Google Maps has accumulated on the screen.

Apple Maps UI: A big map, with a search bar at the bottom. Simple and nothing but the essentials.

Google Maps UI: A page full of ads, a map full of ads and ads masquerading as recommendations. Plus five tab bar buttons at the bottom to not accomplish very much.

I've switched to Apple Maps simply because of its better UX and how much easier the app is to use. As far as I can tell, their mapping and navigational data in Canada is every bit as good as Google's. The only thing keeping Google Maps on my phone is their superior reviews. Once Apple replaces Yelp reviews, I'll jettison the Google Maps app into the sun.

Problem with Apple Maps is that it doesn’t allow multi stop trips and that the search function is way worse than Google maps. I also have had situations where the directions from Apple Maps were just plain wrong. Apple likes to keep things simple but I think they are going too far. Things like offline maps and search, multi stop trips and others are just way too useful to be left out.

It also has a serious lack of data despite all the work in the original link - a lot of the places I frequent just don't show up in Apple Maps at all.

Another problem with apple maps: it has businesses at the wrong geographical location.

I was sent off 1.5 miles away on the same road, to a wallgreens, when my destination was a restaurant with friends. I came late. It was humiliating.

You must be using another Google Maps than me. I'm looking at it right now and I have exactly zero ads: A search bar, buttons to show gas stations etc. the map itself and then Explore, Go, Saved, Contribute and Updates buttons. This reeks of Apple FUD.

Apple Maps navigation used to do things like take me to vacant lots in major midwestern cities instead of the correct property which was several blocks away. Sounds like it works reliably well outside of California now?

I'd say it's very reliable. I'll still cross reference Waze and Google Maps, if I absolutely need to arrive at somewhere on time, but over the past year or so there's only been a very small number of instances where I thought that Apple's navigation directions were inferior to the competition (and even then, we're talking a few minutes)

It's not reliable if you're cross referencing constantly.

I live outside of the USA, and Apple maps consistently screwed up to the point that I've deleted it.

Also living outside the USA, and Apple maps is more accurate in some places than Google maps (the Netherlands). For instance a very big business lot was completely grey on Google maps, but completely mapped out on Apple maps. I don't even have Google maps downloaded on my new iPhone.

So, one anecdote for, one against, it evens out for now.

Last straw for me was when it led me down a very bizarre route through parts of a city that were extremely busy and then over a toll bridge when I could have taken a much shorter, more direct route, and avoided the toll all together. I wouldn't delete an app over business info, I would when it does that.

>It's not reliable if you're cross referencing constantly.

Eh, I cross reference Google Maps with Waze all the time back when I used it, but I wouldn't dare call Google Maps unreliable. It costs nothing to do, so why wouldn't it?

> I cross reference Google Maps with Waze all the time back when I used it, but I wouldn't dare call Google Maps unreliable

Unless "back when I used it" refers to pre-2013, I'm not sure I'd describe that as cross-referencing.

It costs time?

Not the person to whom you were responding, but does it really cost that much time? If I need to be sure of where something is, like for a job interview or a time-critical meeting, I'll check as many sources as I can.

Disclaimer: I'm from New Zealand. Map data is constantly out of date here, no matter which vendor you deal with. Google, Apple, Bing, OSM, whatever. For me, double checking is no problem.

I've been to NZ in the last 10 years(2015), and used Here maps (because I was able to download the entire country map and use them all offline) and had no problem there. I was in the south part of the South Island, from Dunedin in through Roxborough and Alexandra, so not the case of just sticking to Auckland or anything.

Didn't Waze get bought out by Google years ago?

To me, Apple Maps still doesn't feel as good for searching obscure things as Google Maps did 5 years ago, but neither does Google Maps.

An example: I recently searched for "photography repair" in my area and Apple gave me film developing places and local event photographers, Google gave me (I kid you not, first result) McDonalds and Best Buy. The latter I can understand, they sell photography equipment and they do repair things (I don't think photo gear?..) but McD? McD pin is also always visible in Google Maps for me now.

Neither result set was helpful, though I guess that's because what I was looking for probably doesn't even exist in the area. Apples results were more useful, I could at least call those places and ask for advice and they're local businesses. Google on the other hand was just irrelevant paid advertising basically. They are regressing.

I should say too I've been trying to main Apple Maps for 5 years and it has gotten a lot better as a mapping/navigation tool, it has been my main navigator for 3 years but I still bounce to Google for search variety.

With Google Maps I will know about a Maverik gas station that is on my route that I know I want to stop at. I'll search for it "along my route" and I get a bunch of other gas stations that I don't want.

I suspect they are prioritizing the other gas station brands because they paid for preference, and selected "Maverik" as one of their keywords, but the impact to me is that the exact thing I searched for doesn't come up even though I know it's there because I've stopped there before.

If somebody gives me a simple maps product algorithm that just shows me what I'm asking for without preferencing paid people using key words and I'll likely switch. I've loved Google for many years but they are getting much worse.

I wish there was a premium product that I could pay for. I’d pay an annual fee if the search is accurate, supports offline, has good navigation and supports CarPlay. Right now I use Apple Maps for online navigation and Here maps for offline. Neither does a good job of search. And both suck to different extent with navigation. Navigation is so crucial to us these days it’s totally worth paying for. I have been using Apple Maps for a few years now and it has gotten a ton better than it used to be. If that continues it’ll be part of the Apple tax and I’d be glad to continue as an Apple customer.

Adding to the anecdata, this was actually infuriating recently while I was on a road trip. I was searching along my route for gas stations and it seemed to be prioritizing Chevron stations. I ended up at a sketchy gas station in the middle of nowhere where half the pumps didn't work and the other half had broken card readers. Come to find out there was a Love's less than 5 miles up the road, right off the highway, with clean restrooms and working amenities.

Was also having this recently. Apple for some reason was failing at finding anything along the main stretches of highway I was on (with pit stop style gas/convenience combos) whereas Google was recommending gas 5 minutes off the highway but also recommending Subway which was located in the pitstops with the lesser known gas so then I'm just searching for Subway to find the rest stations instead of gas...

Perhaps one day they, or a competitor, will do a ‘Maps Premium’ that simply charges the user inserted of all the ads, targeting, etc. And maybe a ‘Maps Premium+’ that allows for customization and going back to the peak usability design of Maps.

The problem is the higher-level decision makers having fully internalized "never leave money on the table". If there is a premium paid product, it will later have advertising added to it, and results prioritized, because that is an additional source of revenue. Never mind that it defeats the entire purpose of using the premium in the first place.

The second level is that customers know that this will happen, and don't bother looking into the more expensive options. Why bother paying a premium when you get the same poor experience out of it?

The third level happens when market research shows that people are not willing to pay for a premium product. This gets erroneously attributed to people preferring cheap ad-ridden junk, rather than being a response to markets producing expensive ad-ridden junk. (Side note, I despise the concept of "revealed preferences" for this reason.)

Your right in that there are people who have near sighted foolish thoughts like that. The truly impressive folks, if they’re around, will see past that kind of nonsense. Someone who doesn’t subscribe to another’s dogma in Steve Job’s words.

> An example: I recently searched for "photography repair" in my area and Apple gave me film developing places and local event photographers, Google gave me (I kid you not, first result) McDonalds and Best Buy.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but your results might have been more satisfying if you had searched using the term “camera repair”.

Yeah bit of a brain fart when I wrote this, I probably searched for that but I tried a couple of terms in each.

Actually I probably was searching "photography" at some point because "camera" was bringing up general retail more and I was hoping an actual repair business would hav photography as a keyword more than a retail business would. Just further illustrates how frustrating this is.

I wouldn't even expect a camera repair business to exist, much less be able to find it on a search in a map app.

I agree, I’ve often found smaller or less “online” businesses (e.g. a local car stereo shop) on Google that Maps doesn’t surface. But I usually just search for these in a browser anyway, and open Maps when I actually want to navigate there.

I made it a habit to report all missing businesses/locations on Apple Maps I find via other means. Mostly for my own convenience but also to help others/those businesses.

Since they added biking directions in the city I live, I've managed to switch to Apple Maps full-time! Just recently completed a cross country drive with only Apple maps - works really well. Of course now I've locked myself even further into the Apple's ecosystem, but at least my maps are smooth and minimal for now...

Apple’s approach to cycling directions is second rate IMHO.

It’s only available in certain media city locations. If you stray out of those areas you’re out of luck.

Basically Apple seem more interested in rolling this out as a tick box item for journalists than helping me get to work.

This tells me that Apple is not serious about its Maps app.

So, say they wanted to support this for most of the world, what would look different to outsiders?

Waiting to support part of the world until they can support all of the targeted regions would deprive users of data they have for, I guess, years.

So, it should be a gradual rollout. Where should they start? I would think it’s easiest in richer countries, where it’s easier to obtain reliable data, and updates thereof.

Also, denser population areas likely give them most bang for the buck (getting many happy users as fast as possible seems necessary to me when discussing the success of the Maps app with senior management)

Because of those arguments, I don’t see whether that would look much different from what’s happening now.

So, I don’t see how one can conclude they aren’t serious about the Maps app or cycle paths.

Of course, things would be different if we had data telling us they don’t plan to get large coverage, slowed down or even stopped data gathering. I am not aware of either, though. It would be nice to have a history of the info on https://www.apple.com/ios/feature-availability, to see what, if any, progress they make.

By your logic, Denmark or The Netherlands would have been the prime location for bicycle routing to be introduced. Not only are the governmental infrastructure data sources of pristine quality, those places also see the most amount of cycling hours in the world. So they would rapidly get more data that they could fine-tune their algorithms with.

That surprised me, too. All the data probably already is in https://www.opencyclemap.org/?zoom=7&lat=52.65153&lon=8.9347... (aside: look how limited Danish cycling infra is compared to the Netherlands and Belgium)

Maybe routing is too hard on such a dense network, or it’s just that they’re an American company.

Only time will tell and we can be hopeful but a map that only covers part of any particular country is not very useful for navigation except as a proof of concept.

As it is it’s more like the 3D Tour feature of Maps. A great novelty but not useful outside of a very narrow usecase. That’s been around for a few years now but is still only available in a handful of locations.

> been around for a few years now but still only available in a handful of locations.

seems like a fairly long list though I havent monitored how often they add locations so maybe it launched with 100+ international locations.


Google still doesn't have Street View for my house. This tells me Google is not serious about its Maps app.

For me it's even worse. Here in Germany they're driving around capturing all data and taking photos but they don't update the StreetView imagery because of that huge blurring debacle back then when they launched StreetView here.

I see it as then wanting to do it right through curation. Contrast that with Google where they just throw ML at everything.

That seems to be their approach to a lot of things.

Often though this “curation” is never rolled out to a wider audience.

Take for example on site servicing. Apple have never offered that and instead you’re encouraged to visit your local Apple Store.

Except that Apple Stores are still not present out side of certain blessed locations.

If you don’t live somewhere Apple thinks is trendy enough for an Apple Store you’re out of luck.

I’m not expecting a wider roll out of routing for cyclists anytime soon.

> Take for example on site servicing. Apple have never offered that

Apple has offered on-site servicing as standard under AppleCare for many many years.

You’re quite right and I’m wrong!

Excellent, I’m sure that wasn’t the case here last time I checked and gives me hope. Thanks for pointing that out.

Apple Maps has been reliable enough where I worked that it was the default mapping app in our ambulance CAD (computer aided dispatch) system called Geosafe. We literally drove every road in the county and Apple Maps was completely spot on.

I love it.

I wanted Apple Maps to succeed so I’ve been using it from day one. It’s gotten much, much better. That said, if I’m going on a long trip where a non-optimal route is a big deal, I’ll double check with google maps and often (but not always) find a better route.

I also _want_ to like Apple Maps. But I always need to double check business hours using Google.

I actually don’t really trust business hours on google anymore, I have to go to the restaurant directly or just call since I’ve been burned so many times looking forward to dumplings/teriyaki/pizza and then having the restaurant be closed.

Its a pretty hard problem. Businesses typically only list their opening hours on the door and then those are prone to change without notice. Planned to go somewhere for lunch and needed to check in to a train station in an hour, turns out the lunch place decided today they open half an hour late so I had to quickly rush somewhere else.

If google could deploy that tech demo that calls a business on public holidays to check if they are open, that would be amazing.

This has become an even bigger problem recently, with COVID forcing businesses to suddenly change their hours.

Stores don’t even bother to fix their own signage when they change their hours. You’d pretty much have to crowdsource it.

I usually check the store's site or call. I've had enough entries on Google be wrong to blindly trusy it either.

Store sites tend to be less reliable than Google. Just last night I was searching one and the website had been out of date for months and yet Google had it right.

I've seen that divergence go both ways. Of course, neither source is as reliable as calling (if you get a human to answer), as much of a hassle as calling can sometimes be.

Hmm. At least in the US, Apple Maps gets their business info from Yelp, so it tends to be about as reliable as Yelp is. In general I find Yelp to be mostly on point -- not perfect, but not worse on the whole than Google.

In my experience, I find Google business hours to be more accurate than Yelp. Not sure why, but I think restaurants find Google easier or more important to update when they adjust their hours slightly.

On Apple maps day one I was an iPhone user living in Tokyo and Apple maps was like “what are trains? Here’s a 20 mile driving route through Tokyo”. Google maps was gone and I’m not sure whether to its on Apple or Google but my ability to get around was impaired significantly.

I was an iPhone user living in Tokyo and Apple maps was like “what are trains?

Apple Maps has had Tokyo transit data since 2016.

Tokyo got transit data years before many other cities.

The Apple maps debut in 2012 was when Google maps was removed from the Apple store. Maybe there was a way for Apple maps to do train/subway directions then but the UI was ridiculously bad- giant stations equivalent to Grand Central were hardly visible and highway names were highlighted.

>Google maps was removed from the Apple store

They actually removed it entirely? You couldn't install google maps in any way?

It wasn’t that Apple removed Google Maps from App Store. Maps.app on iPhone were using Google Maps data prior to iOS 6. Google Maps the app didn’t existed when Apple switched to use Apple Maps.


Sep 19, 2012 - iOS 6

Dec 13, 2012 - Google Maps launched on App Store

8 years later, Apple Maps still doesn't show buildings in Russia, even in largest cities. So it's essentially useless for actual navigation. It's okay-ish when all you want is to see a point on a map in a city you know, and that's about it. Out of other companies, Yandex and Google have by far more detailed maps.

This leaves me with one question — why does Apple reinvent it anyway? Why can't they just use ridiculously detailed OpenStreetMap data (with appropriate attribution) and call it a day?

> why does Apple reinvent it anyway?

Because Apple learnt a long time ago that something essential needs to be in their hands; third parties let Apple down.

Google let Apple down by refusing to allow Apple to craft vector-based maps, only allowing Apple to download bitmaps. Thus Apple Maps.

Intel let Apple down by failing to predict where the market was moving since about 2012 or so, with the Core processors not gaining much in terms of performance and somehow managing to guzzle more energy. Thus Apple Silicon.

Plenty of other examples where Apple realised they can't offer the whole package until they own all the components. The formula is "<Company> didn't do <Thing> and it impacted Apple's offerings. Thus <Apple Thing>".

Good point, except OSM isn't dependent on any company or person in particular. It's a community effort. Apple could as well contribute whatever improvements it deems necessary to benefit themselves and everyone else. They could write their own renderers and whatnot, it's been done many times by different companies. It would've been a much better starting point, too, than whatever proprietary data they licensed to get started.

> except OSM isn't dependent on any company or person in particular. It's a community effort

That doesn't stop Apple needing control, or at least feeling that way.

> Apple could as well contribute whatever improvements it deems necessary to benefit themselves and everyone else

They do. Apple uses OSM data and contributes to OSM indirectly (https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Apple).

> It would've been a much better starting point, too

Who's to say? As stated, Apple does use OSM data. They use data from multiple different sources. (http://gspa21.ls.apple.com/html/attribution.html)

> than whatever proprietary data they licensed to get started

I detect a bit of a fallacy in what you're saying, that Apple wanting to have control over their own geographical data must mean that they aren't using or contributing to OSM. It isn't a zero-sum situation.

Probably why Google still has separate Waze and Maps maps. One is where users meticulously keep everything up to date, the other is where you copy those updates and can sell this as your own product/service.

GMaps changes their UI constantly, with what I perceive to be inconsistencies in what is one-tap accessible vs. hidden in the hamburger menu.

I, too, noticed the new branding which must be for-pay. Looking for something unrelated to food or auto over a dozen city blocks showed me where the McDonalds and the Firestone were, with logos.

I use maps for more than just directions: I use it as a defacto search engine for finding local businesses, phone numbers and websites. It is a GUI for geo-search. I wish another search engine could recreate it effectively.

> how much clutter Google Maps has accumulated on the screen

I have to use Google Maps "Go" (the light-weight version) on my phone because of all the clutter in their mobile version. Granted I have an older phone - Galaxy S7 - but for something that worked just fine on even older devices, I don't think that's a valid excuse for it being nearly unusable on an S7 now. Thankfully Maps Go is pretty quick, but the biggest feature I miss out on with the Go version is offline maps.

Honestly I think that's on the phone. I also have an S7 with extremely heavy performance issues opening Google Maps (and almost every other application, for that matter), yet my ancient Nexus 4 is as quick as ever.

Maps Go requires Chrome -- after download, the installer tells me Firefox is "not supported".

The ads on Google maps are getting ridiculous.

And YouTube.

You can pay $12/mo to get rid of the ads on YouTube.

Maybe soon you'll be able to pay another $12 to do the same on Google Maps.

The ad-free 'Premium Search' is where they'll really make their fortune.

NewPipe on Android solves this handily.

or just paying for youtube premium ...

With uBO on desktop and YouTube Vanced on mobile, you get the exact same experience AND save $12/month.

and you also don't contribute to the creators incomes.

I can understand people vouching for using youtube premium or nebula instead, but not this.

Small creators who need income will get barely anything, while the ones the youtube algorithm prefers will get all. So yeah support them directly if you want but not google so I think vanced and the like is perfectly fine solution.

meh, still feel very hypocritical.

You have found a way not to pay for something, good for you, but brandishing it as some kind of "perfectly fine solution" is just laughable.

Youtube exploits creators’ work to make viewers at a cost of hosting said videos. It would be a pretty symbiotic thing but with the recent direction Google took I would rather not partake. Also, I barely use youtube. And I used to pay for for example google play music but as usual, google killed it.

People who care about that support them using (for instance) Patreon, and that makes them a LOT more than youtube will, especially with the demonetisation bonanza as of late.

I don't feel responsible for creators' incomes. It's their own choice and their own risks — no one's forcing them to quit their jobs and rely on YouTube for their only income. Or, simply put, "implicit contracts" aren't a thing for me.

Anyway, many, if not most, youtubers have pateron now in case you want to contribute to their incomes without feeding surveillance capitalism.

I'd sooner stop using YouTube altogether.

If paying for Google's services acted as an opt-out from their surveillance then I might consider it; but they'd never give users the opportunity to not have Google looking over their shoulder.

stopping using youtube altogether I would actually understand

I would if more non-commercial and non-monetized content were uploaded to Archive.org.

What issues do you have with Apple maps? I started using it a few months ago and haven't even bothered to install google maps. The only things I have seen lacking is traffic data which I don't really care about and street view which I just use the web version for.

I try to use Apple Maps when I can because the app is much simpler, smoother, and impacts the battery a lot less. I find the traffic data to be good. But it's still lacking in quite a few areas (in western Europe at least). Basically for now it's usable if you already know where you're going, and it's not a long road trip, and you're not cycling.

- Their data isn't as good. Easily half the businesses are missing, and most businesses don't have details like hours. Even the road type and quality is unreliable in some areas, leading the routing to prefer bad roads that are technically shorter in length but worse in time in reality.

- No reviews, although it's coming in the future it seems.

- Speed limits aren't indicated.

- Speed traps aren't indicated.

- No cycling directions even in major cities, although it's coming slowly.

- It doesn't display areas of interest, like Google Maps does in yellow. That is essential in a city you're not familiar with, to know where to go to find active streets.

- No street view in most places, although it's also coming slowly. I find it very useful quite often, like finding a street with free parking before navigating there.

- Transit directions use theoretical schedules, not real-time. Google Maps doesn't either, but Citymapper/Transit does.

- It doesn't have data on "busy times".

I wish there was a way to contribute more efficiently to the map. That app is improving slowly but it could be much faster with trusted local mappers (or local employed mappers).

In my opinion Apple Maps could "easily" get a significant lead on Google Maps if they added toll prices, especially if it optimized your route for time vs price. It's a major feature missing from every service now.

I use the pills daily. One-tap access to gas stations and coffee shops is pretty useful when you’re on the road.

The AR button however is incredibly annoying as I seem to activate it by mistake a little too often.

Totally agree on that AR button!

I’d use Apple Maps if they got rid of Yelp.

This is from the summer, but at least we know they are working on native ratings.


Wow. Great news. Can't wait! Really looking to ditch Google Maps.

Great article, but I think the conclusion about Google Maps languishing because it’s a low margin product is wrong.

While Google Maps as a distinct product has a bottom and top line I think the author underestimates the value that the underlying places data has for Google’s core search product.

The local place data is _massivley_ important to search. I don’t see any foreseeable way Google let’s the product that generates it languish. It’s far too strategic for them. Not to mention the amount of brand value maps has for them as an ecosystem.

My view is that as Google’s Maps advantage dwindles, they’ll do more and more strategic acquisitions of places data sources. Tying more data into their closed ecosystem. Whether the new tech anti-trust landscape in the US and EU allows this is another question.

Yep. This. I use a couple of different services (primarily Apple Maps and HERE maps) interchangeably _when I know where I am going_. But when I don’t know where I am going (e.g. looking for a type of store or restaurant or whatever) I use Google Maps. Their places data is just still so much better.

I hope the days of big tech treating startups as lego pieces to be snapped into their empires will be stopped by regulators. I imagine a lot of new ideas, not bound by ad tech revenue, may take root.

Thanks for the thoughtful response! I don’t have anything interesting to add. I suspect you’re right!

Yup. When I switch to DDG, the quality of local results is a huge discriminating factor that pushes me back to Google. Google Maps adds great value to the "one stop search" of Google Search.

What’s up HN?! Always fun to find an article of mine on here. What I’ve learned so far:

I’ve underestimated the important of their place data to the rest of the search apparatus, and likely underestimated the relevance of Maps to their autonomous vehicle strategy.

What I remain curious about that I’d love your speculation on: why do they bother with the Google Maps Platform at all? They have plenty of ways to monetize with ad targeting, so why go through the headache of opening it up to other businesses?

Google wants to control all the ways people search the web so that they don't have to share profits and so that a competitor can't emerge. That's why we have Maps (location), Android (mobile), Home & Assistant (voice), and Chrome (URL bar).

GMail and whatever their chat is called this week (social), Daydream (VR/AR).

Gmail isn’t there because they want to search your email. It’s there because they want you to sign in.

Google indexes every invoice you get. If you use gmail they know exactly what you order at which store.

That feature did not exist until Inbox, years later.

I still feel like I've been kicked in the groin every time I open Gmail and it isn't Inbox.


I suppose I'm probably a fool to continue expecting that they'll eventually get around to bringing Inbox's bundles over to Gmail, like they said they were going to.

How would you be able to tell if it existed earlier? Anyway the point is it exists now.

Because I personally (with many collaborators, of course) wrote that feature.

Thanks for highlighting the truth. There’s far too much FUD in the comments section these days, especially with respect to FAANG companies I’ve noticed in recent months.

Or it's there for both of those reasons... Not an either or situation

GMail is there mostly as a legacy of a time when Google had legit competition from portal sites like Yahoo and MSN. E-mail was an important part of that portal and GMail was a way to siphon some users.

You can make up as many fictional backstories as you want, but gmail was launched because signed-in users enjoy vastly better search quality and prior to gmail there was no reason to associate your identity with Google.

You don't need to be signed-in to track someone with a cookie and provide targeted search results.

You do to be tracked consistently across different devices and browsers.

From the outside, it looked like GDocs, GMail, and crew were originally created for internal use because engineering Googlers used Linux and hated Windows. Microsoft was still quite the enemy in teh early 00's after all. Along the way a few someones figured out that they could offer it as a product outside the company as a means to attack Microsoft more broadly.

Is that view incorrect?

Google Docs was acquired, so I don't think so. You might be right about Calendar, because there is nothing in the world that a Googler or anyone else hates more than Oracle Calendar.

My overarching view on Google's evolution is that their real product is dirt-cheap computing facilities, and their products are often just a way to exploit that capacity. Part of Gmail's genesis was an abundance of underutilized hard drives. YouTube was acquired because they already had the networking in place to operate it. Inbox Smart Reply was a way to use a novel and cheap ML inference device to launch a feature that nobody else could afford. In all these cases the infrastructure existed first and the products emerged to fill them.

Ha! GMail offered the most free space, by an order of magnitude over its competitors, and that's the primary reason it succeeded in drawing users initially.

Email search wasn't the draw initially, and wasn't even all that much better; there was serious controversy over search, years later, as it was tied to ads that reflected the content of private communications.

Hotmail, Yahoo et al had reasonably good search for the time, but stiflingly little free space. Google offered far more free space with IMAP and POP3 access.

Your argument is about why users moved to gmail. jeffbee is saying Google created GMail to have users signed in so that they could give better search results through personalization.

Daydream is dead, just fyi

Reading this comment thread was a recordbreaking Google experience of ‘Daydream sounds cool’ to ‘they killed it’.

Ha! They’d been pulling back support for quite a while but it’s fully deprecated now. The android+cardboard VR model just doesn’t make sense with current gen VR headsets.

> why go through the headache of opening it up to other businesses?

Such a platform is obviously necessary for the Internet; Google exposing Maps (& related APIs) makes it less likely that another company will build the default platform for map APIs on the Internet.

commoditize your complement

my guess/understanding is that every team at Google is under significant pressure to monetize. Unlike the old days where there was more of a strategy of "build anything that brings people in, search/ads will monetize those eyeballs".

The 2018 google maps price increase could have given some execs HUGE bonuses under that new model, even if it isn't ideal from a Google-wide standpoint

Before the 2018 price increase I was convinced Google didn't care to have lots of little customers paying for Google Maps. It was all peanuts compared to their main income

I so so much appreciate this article. Google's maps dominance has been frustrating me, both as a user who wants innovation, and as a developer who wants affordable access. Very excited to read about these combined efforts (and, like you said, anti-tragedies-of-the-commons)

Thank you!

Without opening a platform, competitors and would be service providers have a clear investor story. By opening a platform, Google undermine their story to investors, making it look like a commodity. Then, each time a competitor is diffused, Google can cripple the service or raise the price so much as to make it useless.

For me, as an OSM contributorm it was incredibly sad to read

> the incredible year OpenStreetMap is having, largely because of enormous investment from Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and Mapbox (FAAMm)

Their contributions were (as far as I know) not really important compared to what was contributed by hobbyists, and overall their activities likely caused more damage than benefit. Mostly due to associating OSM with toxic brands such as Facebook or Amazon and discouraging new contributors.

Note that linked article seems to be not supporting this claim that 2020 is successful for OSM mostly due to corporations.

Just wanted to say thanks for the entertaining article, I learned a lot and especially enjoyed the FAAMm acronym XD.

> Meanwhile at an office down the hall, Azure Maps has been humming along quietly since 2018, beating AWS to the punch by over two years.

Microsoft's actually been in the geo API game for significantly longer, pre-Google Maps. MapPoint started as a desktop GIS product in 2000 that let businesses create desktop maps, and they've had an online API since 2002... it started as a SOAP API: https://news.microsoft.com/2002/04/10/microsoft-announces-ma...

But it was pre-AJAX so Google Maps stole much of their mindshare. And it's been renamed so many times that no one can keep track of it (MapPoint, Bing Maps/Live Maps/MSN Maps, Azure Maps). Though the pricing and documentation has consistently been reasonable.

I also remember Microsoft being involved in TerraServer pre-2000. Loading up satellite photos of my house on dial-up is an early internet memory that will stick with me forever.

I remember being about 8-10 years old and showing my parents a pic of our house from the sky. They freaked out and thought I was "hacking". haha. I can't remember what I used but it was a little before 2000

I live in London and for commuting around via public transport OR walking I always use Citymapper, which is massively superior than Google Maps for directions. I suspect they are using Googles APIs underneath it all, but their UI is better than Google maps and also their recommended public transport directions are orders of magnitude better than Google Maps.

Citymapper will get you between any two locations in London and give you many options based on cost or time or preference for one transport type (e.g. preferring tubes versus buses). Citymapper also gives multi-modal directions: e.g. walking PLUS take an Uber. Or walking, tube, then a cab. Not only this, but it ALSO tells you where you should sit on a train so you have the least walk when you exit the train.

Citymapper is so much better in Paris where Google Maps is very poor for public transport. I'm extremely impressed.

It can not only tell you which exit you need to take (extremely important in Paris) but also which car to board to be the closest to the proper exit or line change.

Multimodal routing is also extremely impressive. They properly implement the city bike sharing system including how much bikes and empty spots they are available at each station.

As most of this is public data, I don't understand why Google is not exploiting it. My guess is that Citymapper originated in London and therefore as a deep understanding of this way of using public transport while Google Maps is mainly developed in the USA.

> Citymapper is so much better in Paris where Google Maps is very poor for public transport. I'm extremely impressed. > It can not only tell you which exit you need to take (extremely important in Paris) but also which car to board to be the closest to the proper exit or line change

Google Maps has been doing both of these for at least a year now.

> Multimodal routing is also extremely impressive. They properly implement the city bike sharing system including how much bikes and empty spots they are available at each station

That one is pretty cool. If only the service wasn't massacred and rendered almost unusable :( ( used it regularly but had to buy a bike due to how often there would be broken bikes or bugs in their system. I think they lost a lot of customers with the provider switch, it was a complete disaster for more than a year and still isn't great).

Check out Transit also, it's a competitor to Citymapper. I'm very impressed with both.

Hands down the best public transit app I've ever used (including Citymapper, Transit, Apple Maps, Google Maps) was an experimental app developed by a Google incubator: the 'Pigeon' app by Area 120.

It graphically showed which parts of the subway were having issues alongside user reports of what's going on. >90% of the time, users would report issues (e.g. train had its brakes triggered at station X, no trains at station Y for the last 15 minutes, etc.) tens of minutes before the MTA (NYC's transit authority) would.

Rather unfortunately, Google shut down Pigeon back in June 2020. I would've paid tens of dollars per year to have it continue being in operation.


Citymapper is nice, but I disagree that it's massively superior:

1- When I was living south of London, Citymapper was completely pointless, since it only showed commuting options with SouthWest trains, and not Southern trains (my station was served by both). I suspect Citymapper might've fixed this since.

2- Maps also gives you all different options, and since some time ago they also started to offer mixed ride-hailing and public transport (they appear to offer that only if your public transport station is far enough from you probably > ~15 minutes walk?)

3- The other features are not that useful: since you'd use a monthly travelcard or pay as you go on your oyster/bank card, the cost estimate is not really something that you have to worry about. If you're a cash-strapped student, you're probably just going to always opt for the bus to save one or two pounds compared to the tube... so, just picking Bus as your preferred mode of transport is enough to cover that use case.

4- Citymapper is/was also inferior to Google maps when you need to quickly check/compare a (different) train that you just managed to hop into if it's not shown in the UI (maybe because it was delayed, and so it was not shown among the options). With Google maps you could just amend the start time for your trip.

5- One really nice feature that Citymapper has is the instructions for which tube exit to use when you arrive at the destination. It really helps to diminish the "which side is north?" disorientation. Otoh, you don't get that unless you actually start the trip (if you only use Citymapper to browse the route options, for example). OTOH, Google maps has AR navigation, which covers the same use case (orient yourself when you do the last bit of your trip on foot)

6- Both Maps and Citymapper have alert notifications for when you should get out at your stop. I almost never use the feature though, because I missed my tube stop a couple of times due to Citymapper triggering their notification AFTER the stop was already past)

7- Both Maps and Citymapper have a way to share your trip with other people. Citymapper is nicer though, since you can see all of the people that shared a trip with you on the same map (nice when you're meeting with more than 1 other friend from different parts of London)

That said, I dislike monopolies, so when I'll travel around London again (after the end of the pandemic) I'm planning to try to use maps.me (which uses the OSM data) as my first option.

This is all your opinion. As someone that literally lives in Zone 2, I rely on Citymapper literally every day and in my actual experience as a Londoner, Citymapper beats Google every day. If Google were better, I'd use Google, but it's not.

Also, another major benefit of Citymapper over Google. Citymapper does a much better job of orienting you when walking. Google Maps seems to be slow, or maybe have UI issues when I'm trying to work out where I am and which direction I should be walking in. With Citymapper I never have an issue, it seems to use the IPhone compass functionality better than the Google Maps app.

The other major, major issue with Google, is the Directions UI on phone just seems half baked, like it was an after-thought. It has never felt nice to use and I'm often struggling trying to work out how to make it do what I want. I struggled when I first moved to London getting around until a co-worker advised I use CityMapper and then I never went back, it actually made me travel around London more because I felt so much more comfortable with how to get around.

E.g. On my phone I just tried to make Google show me a route from my home to a pharmacy in central London. The result: "Can't find a way there."

Google Maps can't, at least on my phone (11 pro) with the latest version, show me routes involving buses AND trains. It only shows me trains and not buses. If there is a way to make it show both it doesn't make it obvious.

In Google Maps I can only click on one option, walking, trains, car, etc. There is no option to just show me all methods and then compare them. This is one of the things CityMapper does incredibly well, it shows you every option possible and does so in a very nice presentation. Google Maps assumed you already know which SINGLE method of transportation you want to use and you have to choose it to begin with, which in my opinion is a poor way of handling this situation.

> 1- When I was living south of London, Citymapper was completely pointless

Agreed. Citymapper is only good when you’re in a city. When you’re not in a city / travelling outside the city, the experience is subpar.

Fortunately the clue’s in the name. Like the OP (and sibling), living in zone 2 and rarely venturing outside of my z1-2 bubble, nothing comes close to Citymapper.

When I do venture out, I’ve now switched to Apple Maps, as I’m typically driving. Voice notifications are intrusive to music & audiobooks, and having to regularly look at the screen is distracting and dangerous. Apple’s restrictive APIs for the Apple watch means it’s the only mapping platform that can give me haptic feedback when it’s time to turn, and that’s extremely valuable driving in and out of London.

Citymapper compute their own routes, so that definitely doesn't come from Google. I'm not sure where they get their map data from, though.

I'm curious as well. I was in Asia on business and their navigation is top notch.

One of my favourite features of Citymapper when I lived in London was how they would let you filter routes by trains that had air conditioning for the complete hideousness that was summer 2019. Another interesting one I noticed was that they would increase the size of the "navigate home" button after a certain time of day.

Apple is so far behind outside of the places they prioritize that it'll take decades at this pace to get on Google Maps' current level.

It's really useless in places like Eastern Europe, where Apple has no interest in supporting and isn't likely that it'll turn that around any time soon.

Mapy.cz is far better than Google in case of Slovakia or Czech Republic. They have full coverage of high resolution pictures taken from planes and not satellites. Also these contain all the hiking, cycling and other routes. The native Android and iOS apps work great and support offline maps - you can download the whole map for a country with one click. Google Maps is unusable for sport or hiking because you only see a large green blob instead of the terrain with contour lines with altitude markings, all trails and roads and POI. Yes, Mapy.cz can't compete with car navigation, but everything else is miles better (and navigation on foot is better too).

Google Maps just isn't very good for hiking. But it's not just a map, it's got the yellow pages, Yelp, and, depending on where you are, various other things like hotel booking and public transport routing thrown in. My recent favorite feature is the live estimation of how crowded a store is, very useful during the pandemic.

Much of this is stuff the software based on OSM isn't even trying, or doing so only very half heartedly, as far as I am aware. On the flipside, OSM is, in many places, peerless in its core competency, a detailed map that everyone can use.

Mapy.cz covers most of other use cases as well, including business info, public transport and other details. I personally find mapy.cz more tailored to pedestrian/public transport navigation within european city. The only feature which I go to google maps is the mentioned estimation of how crowded a place is (as this comes from android data, and google has an clear edge there).

The software supports the use cases but the data isn't there. Certainly for where I'm living. Most of the information is missing -- eg apparently there are no pediatricians in my city, many opening times are missing, in my area there are no photos, no reviews; other stuff is wrong. It's more comprehensive in Prague, though from a brief look Google still has more of everything.

I'm not saying that OSM (and other projects, but particularly OSM) can't catch up, especially when it comes to factual information. It has already shown that crowdsourcing can do better than Google at pure mapping.

Does OSM support address-based resolution of places? AFAIK, Google is getting things like store hours when it crawls websites. Which, of course, it's doing anyway for indexing. As long as it can figure out the address and the store hours from the website, it can put them on the map.

In the meantime, OSM generally doesn't even have place addresses in my experience. If I could resolve addresses to places in OSM, then I could easily write some scrappers to help out with filling in other data.

> In the meantime, OSM generally doesn't even have place addresses in my experience.

As @matkoniecz pointed out, OSM is quite capable of having place addresses mapped to a specific spot. If your experience has been that they are missing, then that is most likely because no one has added them to OSM for the area's in which you have looked.

But the good part about OSM is that anyone, including you, can add those details, and they appear in the main map within seconds to minutes of someone adding them. So you could help rectify the missing situation by adding some of that missing data.

If you don't want to learn all the OSM details, and provided some background details are present (generally building outlines for address data questions) one easier way to help add the data is via StreetComplete (https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/StreetComplete). It asks simple questions, you enter the answer, and the app handles the low-level OSM tagging changes based upon the answer given.

I do contribute in my local area. But I'm talking about entire suburban cities with no addresses on any of the houses. It would take me months to verify all the addresses and enter them manually. My county property appraiser does offer some data files, but I haven't yet written any tests to see whether it's enough to reliably populate addresses into OSM.

Addresses and exact shop locations can be added to OSM.

See https://www.openstreetmap.org/#map=19/50.07298/19.93528 where it is mapped at least in a small part.

> then I could easily write some scrappers to help out with filling in other data.

Note that it may not possible due to copyright issues

I'm not talking about adding addresses to OSM. I'm talking about resolving features based on address. "Give me the building at address (____), because I know that's a business and I can fill in additional information."

Just tested for Germany (where I am living currently) and it is not very good: at the map level it shows the correct street number but it seems unable to use it for actual route planning (i.e. if you are in a street with numbers from 1 to 200 it seems to always calculate your arrival point at #1 even if you specificy that you are looking for "72/b").

Also, is it available as an app on iPhone?

Yes, it's available on iPhone. The company is based in Czech republic and originally they were focused on Czech and Slovak market, but they cover the whole world. I haven't tried the navigation, I only use it mostly for navigation outside of cities for hiking - I can have the whole tourist map in my pocket and offline at any time.

> Google Maps just isn't very good for hiking

I find openstreetmap.org to be great for showing hiking trails. At least for my local area.

I've spent a ton of time mapping out trails in my region on openstreetmap. I've found the issue now is the interface. The map data is only good if it can be easily read.

I'm starting to look at workflows for taking osm trail data and trying to make nice maps, but wow it is not easy to do!

Thanks! I use mapy.cz for everything, but my main reason are the hiking routes. I've contibuted some routes also (and city data using streetComplete), but certainly not a ton.

Agreed. It has the potential to be best bar none for this. Where it isn't, it is probably only a matter of time.

To be fair the crowded functionality in a map is something only Google could pull of since they are tracking all phones and locations. And it still has a bunch of restaurants listed in my neighbourhood that is clearly only containing rental houses and very outdated roads compared to Openstreetmaps.

In the US, I use AllTrails for hiking, which I think is built on Mapbox. Hiking, hunting, fishing, running, biking—all interesting examples of niche uses for maps that naturally lend themselves to separate user experiences.

> My recent favorite feature is the live estimation of how crowded a store is, very useful during the pandemic.

Unfortunately it's been completely useless in my area. I wish stores just allowed access to the cctv cameras on their parking lots so I could estimate for myself.

That’s valuable data for sale by other vendors.

What vendors are in this business?

Foursquare, but not with parking lot data, to my knowledge:


Satellite image companies sell this type of alternative data to buyers:



Some of the vendors are RS Metrics, Descartes Labs and Orbital Insight.

Unfortunate that none of these, even when purchased, would be a substitute for actually looking at the parking lot in real time.

Another big issue I've had with using Google Maps for outdoor trips is their awful offline sattelite map saving. There is no way to specify which layers to save and the level Google chooses could be anywhere from decent to utterly unusable. I've had saved maps that turned into blurry blobs the minute I lost phone service countless times.

I eventually gave up on using it and switched to a proper topo map app that actually lets me set the offline resolution and it has been vastly better.

That is true, it's an order of magnitude of difference. For example, look at this location:


And compare it to Google Maps:


Google Maps is substantially better at search and places data but this advantage is slowly shrinking.

Also, Mapy.cz has a tracker feature with online sync and gpx export.

Wow, you weren't kidding. Poking around real quick, the aerial imagery is super high resolution, on par with what you'd get with a consumer-grade drone flyover.

>They have full coverage of high resolution pictures taken from planes and not satellites

...as opposed to google maps not using aerial photography? AFAIK most urban "satellite" picture on google maps is also taken with planes.

Also in central Europe. Maps and navigation in the Croatian countryside is comically broken. Not only are the locations of addresses way off, if you travel to that location, they'll then send you somewhere else and eventually in a circle.

Maybe they don't care about poor countries with lower usage, but I'd be embarrassed to have that in my product.

Having said that, rich western Europe is in some ways no better. If you create a public transport route, Google maps will send you walking hundreds of meters around non-existent barriers, or sometimes insist that you go one tram stop past and then catch the tram back to the stop you want to go to.

Maps, like search seems to be slowly suffering from some sort of corporate rot over at Google.

Can't speak about Eastern Europe, but here in the Netherlands the public transport with Google Maps is really good. Including live-timing as to when your tram will arrive.

I have no problem with that, it works fine for me too, but public transport routing here (the actual mapping functionality) in Den Haag is broken and has been for years.

Even when I don't encounter obvious bugs, Google serves up illogical routes.

Google map is amazing in India (a poor country albeit with higher usage).

It is not uncommon to see cab or auto (tuk-tuk) drivers use smartphones to navigate the city roads.

Map technology in general has become a great leveller, where it enables outsider to start driving cabs in complex cities roads (which otherwise would be almost impossible without direction from passenger).

A year ago I would have agreed, but I am now more optimistic. They recently launched a huge update for Canada that has made it competitive with Google Maps, and their "Look Around" is a lot more impressive than Street View in my experience with it.

Like the article states, the pace of their updates is increasing. While it may still be a while until they support the rest of the world, the fact that somebody there seems to finally understand people use iPhones in places other than the Bay Area is promising.

Google Maps is not that great in places they don’t prioritize. They have no ability to handle tolls and direction of roads that are based on day of the week and hour. Local examples from the DC Area: I-66 is marked as a toll road 100% of the time despite only being tolled at rush hour in one direction; Clara Barton parkway is always marked as two way, but it becomes one way during rush hour, I regularly am routed down it by Google maps when it is one way the opposite direction.

I frequently am sent down nonexistent roads in rural Massachusetts, meanwhile there is a paved road in Bristol, NH that Google refuses to route people on; it is used by Apple Maps.

I'm located in NoVA and I've noticed this as well. It seems like instead of having the option "Avoid Tolls" it needs to be "Avoid Tolls when I have to Pay".

In Eastern Europe being eaten by OpenStreetMap is plausible.

For example, see random part of Poland: https://www.openstreetmap.org/#map=15/52.1081/21.1167

Main power of Google is live traffic data.

> Main power of Google is live traffic data.

Does Google not rely on Waze for this?

Granted, Google now owns Waze, but they may have an API.....

> ...it'll take decades ...

I'm very literal.

Google maps was released in 2005. The upper limit on how long it would take Apple to build the whole thing from literally nothing is 15 years, if they are investing to improve their service.

Let alone with computer vision, satellite imagery, hardware improvements and the ability to lazily copy the interface Google has created which would speed the process up.

The fact that it took company X 15 years to do something does not mean that 15 years is upper limit for other companies. Not saying it would take more or less, but just seeing it ad an upper limit makes no sense to me.

> if they are investing to improve their service

You’re hinting at the same thing here, but you ignored the key phrase ”at this pace” in the OP’s comment.

Even Usain Bolt won’t do an impressive 100 meters run if he’s walking.

Of someone at Apple copied the Google interface they'd be fired for substandard results.

In Easter Europe even Google Maps are much worse that OpenStreetMaps.

I live in northern Europe (Sweden) at at least in my specific area OpenStreetMap is a lot better than Google maps.

I also live in Sweden and do a lot of GIS analysis with both OSM data and other providers. OSM is great when it comes to the actual road geometry (esp. bike and pedestrian roads), although it often gets the speed limits wrong. For pedestrian travel analysis I'd say it's the best dateset available, since it includes all those 'unofficial' paths that everybody uses, but are often left off official maps. It is however pretty terrible when it comes to buildings and addresses. You don't have to get many km out from major cities before a lot of buildings are missing, and the numbering of buildings is often either missing or wrong.

> You don't have to get many km out from major cities before a lot of buildings are missing, and the numbering of buildings is often either missing or wrong.

I am working on a project where I have noticed the same problem with several providers. What provider do you recommend for geocoding when this stuff needs to be right most of the time? Bing API seems somewhat OK. Google Maps API seems like the best, but comes with insane terms and conditions.

Yea, I agree that the Bing API is pretty OK and Google seems slightly better. However for Sweden I would probably go with Hitta or Eniro, since they specialize in the Swedish market, however neither has a free API. Likewise if I only need data for a handful of countries (and am willing to pay) I would first look if there are companies that specialize in those countries, since that data tends to be better than the places that provide global Geocoding.

Here maps is good too. I'm always amazed how it consistently gets the speed limit right even in sparsely populated areas and small towns, where the speed limit often changes literally every 50 meters.

If someone is interested in mapping this kind of things in OpenStreetMap (used by mapy.cz outside Czech Republic) - I recommend StreetComplete (max speed quest must be enabled in settings, it is disabled by default)

I'm not sure "much worse", maybe worse, but yet comparable and still useful. Apple Maps, on the other hand... sheesh.

Apple is behind, yes, but you overestimate how dependant many core services are towards Google Maps. Many Nordic services like transit apps and websites among others use either OSM with the country's own Land Survey's map data.

As long as Apple and competitors can a) have businesses add their locations easily and b) have public transit companies' timetables in their system, they are already within arm's reach of GMaps.

imo for the 95%-task of get-me-to-this-address i find the apple routing actually superior to gmaps (in germany that is)

I thought that's because Google stopped doing street view because of German privacy laws. Without the street view cars roaming around there's a lot less street level data to be had.

I'm not sure how important Streetview is for street level data. I was always under the impression that "paved" (or similar) streets were pretty easy to get right (and can possibly be obtained from a governmental agency?). For smaller footpaths I always assumed that they were using movement data (the same they use for traffic forecasting) to detect where they are.

They also resumed Streetview in parts of Germany this year, and I'm not sure they ever fully stopped running them for private data collection.

> I'm not sure how important Streetview is for street level data.

Streetview imagery is mined for address information from signs/plaques on buildings. Operating hours and names of businesses can be determined via OCR

They do feature extraction; store names, addresses, traffic controls, etc.

I figured they had a tracker on the cars that would produce actively captured data that could be compared to phone data to understand what roads are around, etc.

Apple seems to want to expand its (primarily) iPhone market in India, and yet Apple Maps is still far behind Google Maps here even in larger cities. There was news a few years ago about investing in maps, but that hasn’t shown as much improvement as one would expect. Google Maps adapts and improves a lot faster (partially thanks to millions of Android devices reporting location data all the time).

I don’t think Apple is very serious about Maps. If it is, it’s certainly not investing much into it except for Bay Area and a few major cities in the U.S. Apple Maps is more of a hobby for Apple, like Apple News (which is still only in a handful of countries several years after launch) and some other products (like Apple TV) and services.

Tokyo coverage is also not very good in comparison with Google Maps unfortunately. Considered moving over but the combination of poor search results and the lack of ability to move my places from Google to Apple Maps means it won't be my focus any time soon.

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