Will Mashups be threatened by Google’s Map API TOS?

Update 11/17/08 9:00 pm: The BBC has chimed in with an excellent summary of the issues at in the battle between the OS and Google. Google apparently called the BBC: to stress that they believe Ordnance Survey has misrepresented its terms and conditions. They say that when we hand over data to Google Maps, they are not claiming ownership of that information, just the right to crawl it and use it for marketing purposes. I’m not sure that will settle the row. Well if that’s the case I wonder then why don’t they just change the TOS?

Why is Britain’s OS and the British mapping community in an uproar over the Google Maps TOS and why should you care?

In this battle of acrimonious acronyms, the Google Maps Terms of Service is being called into question and it highlights significant problems with Google’s Map API TOS that can affect all of us. The conflict also highlights the difficulties that a government agency confronts when it is asked to perform like a business.

Regardless, it certainly is affecting the future of all API mashups in England particularly those in the public sector that use the British Government’s Ordnance Survey (OS) data.

For example, it means the police are breaking the law (according to the OS) for their Google Map based crime maps, because they use OS boundaries.

There have been calls for the management of OS to resign and calls to consider stop using Google’s API by mappers. All in all, its quite a mess.

Should a for profit entity be allowed to profit from government data for free?

Should a government agency restrict use of public data?
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Classmates.com User Sues – Should Merchant Circle worry?

According to Wired.com, Anthony Michaels received an email last December from Classmates.com advising him that his former classmates were trying to contact him. He proceeded to upgrade to the premium Classmates.com  membership so that he might contact his long lost school mates. But Michaels learned that no one that he knew was actually trying to contact him, He is claiming in his class action law suit, that it was a deceptive scam. The suit, brought in San Diego, was filed by Kabateck, Brown and Kellner.

I was struck by the similarities of Classmates.com’s tactics to those frequently used by Merchant Circle. There have been a number of writers (John BatelleMatt McGee,  Greg Sterling & myself) and readers critical of Merchant Circle’s tactics. Matt’s post from September of 2006 is of interest because every time MC cranks up a questionable marketing practice, the comments start flowing in. The comments section on that post now has 132 comments and most of them are quite recent. 

As the Wired article points out, the limited budgets of the states’ Attorney Generals have limited their action in dealing with deceptive advertising and “that leaves class action attorneys on the front line of technology in the consumer area.”

Update: Miriam Ellis of Solas Design has a related post on deceptive marketing practices on Yelp in the SF area: SMBs Say Yuck To Yelp’s Telemarketers

Local Links of Interest

Why Wikipedia Accuracy Won’t Cut It For Google Local - Miriam Ellis, Searchengineguide.com

A great summary of the contradictions that Google Maps faces between its supposedly wiki nature and the reality of local business listings. Google, by not prioritizing record accuracy in Local, has created a less than ideal platform for local in many ways. Read Miriam’s take on why wiki won’t work in the weal world. 

Hesitating Over a Smartphone’s Price? It Could Save You Money - Bob Tedeschi, NY Times

I am always amazed when a writer checks his intelligence at the door when writing about technology. The premise of the article is that you should buy a Smartphone like the G1 or the iPhone so that you can save all that money on your future purchases with real time, on site shopping comparison tools like ShopSavvy. Well when I do the math, I can spend $200 on an iPhone and $20/mo more than I can currently spending on a data plan so I can save 10% on my next purchase. It seems like an expensive way to save money to me. Seems like the self delusional rationalization of consumerism to me.

Mobile Speed Trap Mapping with iPhone - Virtual Earth, An Evangelist’s Blog from Microsoft

Check out the feature list:
•Speech notification of Speed Traps based on current moving direction, speed of the driver, and distance to closest point
•Microsoft Virtual Earth display of Speed Traps 

Now this is product that would allow me to embrace some self delusional rationalization of my own. I get enough speeding tickets in a year to pay for an iPhone several times over. Hmm, I suppose I could slow down.

MeetWays - I found this little gem in a Google Geo Developers Blog Post post on reverse geocoding. It’s a site that mashes up the Google AJAX Local Search API with the Google Maps API and just a bit of math. It calculates the point between two addresses on the map, uses the reverse geocoder to find out the address for that point, and then does a local search near that address to find places to meet that are halfway between. The upshot? You can meet your friends halfway and know what’s nearby. 

Eagerly Awaiting Google’s Voice Search For The iPhone - Greg Sterling, SearchEngineLand

Most of you have already read about this new Google initiative to allow searching of the Google index via voice. For those of you that don’t have an iPhone, but would like some sense of what a single field voice search is like try the recently upgraded Goog-411.

Google Maps API Terms of Service Update

The nearby.org.uk blog has a good piece on the new Google Maps API Terms of Service agreement:

Basically its laid out pretty clearly (see section 11.1) that if you use the API to display *your* data, then you grant Google a irrevocable licence to do as it sees fit with your data. 

Sure it says “You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Your Content. ” – first, to soften the blow, but then goes on to say “[to] publicly perform, publicly display and distribute Your Content. ” – I dont see how that is any different to saying they can do what they like with your data. 

It gets worse if you have “business listings data”, as 11.1(b) says: “For example, if you create a store locator application, Google may use the business listings information from the store locator to improve the Google Services such as Google Maps and local search.
- give your data away free to Google why don’t you!

Here is Ed Parson’s (Google Geospatial expert) take on the new TOS.

Google Maps Kiosks found in the wild

Martijn Beijk has spotted Google Maps embedded in an ATM kiosk in Barcelona, Spain.

These Google Maps kiosks were widely reported on last fall when gasoline pump maker Gilbarco Veeder-Root announced that they would be included in a new generation of gas pump.

At the time, there was a coupon feature included that was supposed to feature local merchants. These coupons were positioned as a potential revenue generator for the local gas station. To my knowledge, these have not been spotted in the wild. This kiosk is using the API and only showing their other locations.

Has anyone spotted other Google Maps Kiosks?

Google Maps + TeleAtlas + TomTom = Powerful map update strategy

Google Maps needs accurate underlying maps data to be successful. It needs the data to not only provide a positive user experience but to correctly deliver ads and a safe mapping environment. The change to TeleAtlas in September appeared to many to be a step backwards in map quality, partiuclarly in the U.S. But the nexus of Google Maps, TeletAtlas and Tom-Tom, TeleAtlas’s owner creates an alliance that is uniquely positioned to take advantage of the benefit of user generated content (UGC) to create a better mapping product.

Unlike business listing data where the motivations for gaming the system are high, user generated map data has the potential to create better, more accurate maps more quickly. A device like the Tom-Tom navigation devices can gather incredibly accurate GPS paths that when combined with the user feedback of Tom-Tom and Google Maps users and matched against satellite imagery can allow TeleAtlas to make more maps changes in less time, less expensively than sending out cars and drivers. This capability will grow, going forward, with the introduction of navigation devices that offer a two way connection back to TeleAtlas and TomTom.

The volume of data, the nature of the data and the timeliness of the data could mean that Map errors in Google could be updated in a 1 to 4 month time frame going forward, rather than the traditional 6-9 months they have taken in the past.

TeleAtlas recently released their first quarterly update that integrates TomTom UGC since they were aquired by TomTom in early June and contains significant improvements from community data .

At the end of last month, TeleAtlas provided a Webcast from Rik Kemmik VP of Product Management with a number of details about how community input changes the way maps are made.

Here are my notes of the conference (which is available as a podcast here)..
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iPhone 2.2 upgrade to have new Google Map features

As the release date of the iPhone upgrade approaches, the rumor mills are churning. Gizmodo has a good roundup of likely new features that are thought to be in the next iPhone update (2.2). There are a number of interesting Google Map features that seem ready to appear on the iPhone in this update:

Street View
Walking directions
Public transport information
Share location (essentially a send to mail via Google Maps feature)

Google Maps in the iPhone shares the same listing and ranking of businesses as the browser based Google Maps and the Universal Local results. The last time I looked though it only showed the top 8 businesses in a query. Is that still the case?

Geolocation going mainstream – OS X to have by January?

Ed Parsons is the Geospatial Technologist of Google and he has noted for Geospatial services to belcome really mainstream, the ability to determine a users/devices location needs to be a standard function. Windows 7 announced that it would include the capability, the iPhone and gPhone already do. In a recent post Parsons speculates that All eyes then (will be) on Macworld in January, I would be surprised if we don’t… see a location API as a new feature of Snow Leopard.

With location awareness moving towards the mainstream, all of local will be affected. Ads will be more targeted and content can be more relevant. Google can make search even more personalized having reasonable confidence that if you search on the word “Dentist” that you are looking locally rather than for a wikipedia article.

With the next versions of the major operating system including location awareness, the leading smart phones including it, Firefox soon to offer it as well, it will have widespread availability within 12-24 months. It will have a long term, permanent affect on what we call local.

Goog-411 updated to “single search box”

Goog-411, Google’s voice driven 411 directory assistance that uses the same business listings and rankings as Google Maps, has recently been upgraded to only require a single business + city search phrase. This upgrade mirrors the late  July blue line upgrade to Maps that moved Maps from a two field entry (one each for business and location) to a single single search box like the main Google search page.

Goog-411 now starts the search with the phrase: Say the business and the city and state…If that query is not understood the service reverts back to the requirement to entry first say just the city and state. Once that query is answered it then notes: What business name or category?. While it is not noted the user can still ask for category + city during the first query combined query.

When on the road

Google Maps: Will Edit Wars go Politically Postal?

The community edit hijackings started in the Payday Loan industries to create location confusion, moved onto theft in the floral industries, were highlighted with a bit of pranksterism with the Microsoft Escort example and subsequently moved into the consumer complaint arena. As Ben Allen noted in his blog: You Deserve a Rake Today at Ickdonalds.

There is certain trend to these hijackings and they beg a larger question: When will politics enter the wiki world of Google Maps hijacking? In the not too distant future, the next frontier for use of the Maps community edit feature could very well be as a virtual reflection of real politics. The disputes of the world often shift to the internet as the broad reach of the platform creates opportunity for widespread impact and the anonminity provides cover to the perpetrators.

When will PETA take over McDonald’s? When will the Armenians take over the Turkish Embassy? When will the Service Workers Unions take over WalMart? These listings all remain unclaimed in Google Maps and seem to be likely targets for partisans of these particular real world battles.

I can only imagine the conversation between Eric Schmidt and the Turkish ambassador explaining how this could have happened.

You can see battle lines forming, albeit in a limited fashion, with edit wars in several of the unclaimed listings that I highlighted last week. These edit wars, once the province of Wikipedia, have now made their appearance in Google Maps. Two examples can be seen in the edit histories of the unclaimed Apple Corporate listing and Google’s unclaimed Cambridge record.

Take a look at the edit history of Google’s unclaimed listing in Cambridge to get a glimpse of the opinions that have already been expressed via Maps about Google:

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Developing Knowledge about Local Search