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.
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.
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.
Their optimization strategy informed them to shoot their customers in the foot.
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.
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.
In what way? It seems a bit like stone throwing to immediately toss another company into the conversation without providing some anecdote.
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.
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.
Why did your comment single out Amazon and not the practice of 'immorally' tracking customers?
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.
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).
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 you think those resonate better?
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?
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.
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?
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:
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.
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.
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.
(Your reply with an unbroken word that spans larger than the page width forced my page to grow (horizontal scrollbar))
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:
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!
I’m no amazon apologist, but one thing I trust them to do is keep my things running as they are.
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)
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.
One day Google increased prices and our costs went up x5-x10 on AppEngine . 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Is it likely that Azure and Amazon would do similar if they raised prices on GCP?
Worse than that, every 1 position drop market share halves: ~50%, ~25%, 12%, 6%.
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.
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.
Many may not know that behind the scenes, Amazon hires economists just like their big tech peers MS, Google.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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."  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.
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.
That's every VC's dream isn't it?
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.
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?
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’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.
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.
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.
I live outside of the USA, and Apple maps consistently screwed up to the point that I've deleted it.
So, one anecdote for, one against, it evens out for now.
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?
Unless "back when I used it" refers to pre-2013, I'm not sure I'd describe that as cross-referencing.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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”.
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.
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.
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.
Maybe routing is too hard on such a dense network, or it’s just that they’re an American company.
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.
seems like a fairly long list though I havent monitored how often they add locations so maybe it launched with 100+ international locations.
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.
Apple has offered on-site servicing as standard under AppleCare for many many years.
Excellent, I’m sure that wasn’t the case here last time I checked and gives me hope. Thanks for pointing that out.
I love it.
If google could deploy that tech demo that calls a business on public holidays to check if they are open, that would be amazing.
Apple Maps has had Tokyo transit data since 2016.
Tokyo got transit data years before many other cities.
They actually removed it entirely? You couldn't install google maps in any way?
Sep 19, 2012 - iOS 6
Dec 13, 2012 - Google Maps launched on App Store
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?
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>".
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.
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.
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.
The ad-free 'Premium Search' is where they'll really make their fortune.
I can understand people vouching for using youtube premium or nebula instead, but not this.
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.
Anyway, many, if not most, youtubers have pateron now in case you want to contribute to their incomes without feeding surveillance capitalism.
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.
- 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.
The AR button however is incredibly annoying as I seem to activate it by mistake a little too often.
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.
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?
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.
Is that view incorrect?
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.
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.
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.
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
> 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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Also, is it available as an app on iPhone?
I find openstreetmap.org to be great for showing hiking trails. At least for my local area.
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!
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.
Satellite image companies sell this type of alternative data to buyers:
Some of the vendors are RS Metrics, Descartes Labs and Orbital Insight.
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.
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.
...as opposed to google maps not using aerial photography? AFAIK most urban "satellite" picture on google maps is also taken with planes.
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.
Even when I don't encounter obvious bugs, Google serves up illogical routes.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Does Google not rely on Waze for this?
Granted, Google now owns Waze, but they may have an API.....
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Streetview imagery is mined for address information from signs/plaques on buildings. Operating hours and names of businesses can be determined via OCR
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.