If you're Google Maps these days, you're not really watching the dominoes fall away from you so much as those dominoes have sprouted legs and started fleeing from you to distant, more agreeable climes. First foursquare bailed for MapBox, Apple's been developing its own in-house mapping software, and Wikipedia decided it preferred to hold hands with OpenStreetMap. Concerning that last Google Maps alternative, Microsoft has been doing its part to bolster the competition.
Some of this exodus could be attributed to Google's decision last year to begin charging fees to smaller websites that generate 25,000 page views a day over the course of one financial quarter. While Google still holds a commanding market share of map search and online search in general, the trend of developers abandoning Google Maps since the price hike has become undeniable. One company that has enjoyed a surge of new customers defecting from Google Maps recently is deCarta.
deCarta has been working with businesses to build location-based services for more than 15 years, offering everything from mobile apps to turn-by-turn directions for numerous platforms. While deCarta has been welcoming developers into its fold over the past seven years, in the past few months the company says it has seen a significant increase in new developers eager to work with its wares. In fact, 488 new customers have come to deCarta in the last 90 days with 52% of new developers citing Google Maps API as their most recent mapping platform of choice.
Curiously, some of these companies fall far short of the 25,000-page view limit that would incur charges from Google, suggesting that some developers are defecting from Google for reasons other than finances. Given Google's less-than-scrupulous practices regarding privacy and its maddeningly obtuse terms of services, one could postulate that another force driving developers and businesses away from Google Maps is a philosophical discord.
That was certainly the explanation offered up by Wikipedia, who clearly stated that the the open source approach of OpenStreetMap is more closely attuned to Wikipedia's own mission to make information freely available and accessible. As for Microsoft and Apple, their motives might be considered philosophical but only from a financial standpoint. The most telling detail of the deCarta statistics, though, is that companies not yet getting the amount of traffic that would be subject to paying fees for the use of Google Maps are bypassing the market leader altogether.
Paying to use Google Maps API isn't inherently a bad thing - all that bandwidth has to be supported somehow. Still, the trend of small companies avoiding Google Maps may suggest that ambitious start-ups don't want to get entwined with Google Maps early on only to later find it difficult to divorce itself from Google. Aside from the financial aspects involved with developing a brand with the support of Google Maps, Google itself has fostered an unsavory reputation for itself by seemingly inverting that whole "Don't be evil" mantra by doing somewhat evil-ish things like stone-walling outsiders and leaving Google users with a vague understanding of how their personal content is used and stored by the company.
None of this is to say that Google Maps is crumbling, but the service may soon find itself in a very lonely place in the near future.[Via Search Engine Land.]