Mapping the Exodus…

Over half of new deCarta developers coming from Google Maps

Much has been written in the last month1 about the exodus of developers from Google Maps, partly as a result of Google’s plan to charge high volume users and partly a result of terms that make the "Free-ness" of those maps a little less free.

Here at deCarta, we are seeing the effects. In the last 90 days, we have had 488 new companies sign up on the deCarta DevZone and start working with our offerings. Our DevZone has been supporting developers for about seven years, so when we see a big uptick, it’s worth finding out why and what those people are looking for. So we did a survey…

The results are pretty interesting. Three things in particular:

  • Over half of the developers checking out our mapping platform listed the Google Maps API as their most recent map supplier; that’s about three new app developers per day coming to our DevZone from Google alone. Not out of line with the conventional wisdom, but interesting to see quantified. The timing of this surge confirms that Google is no longer seen as the "Benevolent Provider Of Free Stuff" that it once was. What is more surprising is that not all of the companies jumping ship are big guys…in fact some are not even close to the 25,000/day map threshold that Google uses to trigger the hounds.

    From our conversations, we pick up a common theme: Developers want to work within clearly defined partnerships, not those that can and do shift with no recourse for the developer. People want to know how much they’ll need to pay, now and in the future and whether or not they can execute their business model (especially if that involves advertising). They want to create some differentiation and most of all, they want to know whether or not their partner will one day decide to compete with them (Hello, Real Estate and Travel sites, local search sites and a bunch of others!). So it’s not just about the money.
  • They need more than just Maps: Map tiles are just a start. Most of the customers coming to our DevZone said they also need geo-coding, reverse geo-coding, local search, spatial indexing of their own content, routes, turn-by-turn navigation, fleet management services, geo-fencing and/or other services to come bundled with those tiles. In fact, only 13% of these developers said that they only needed map tiles. 87% needed at least two services (geo-coding was

    the next most popular) and over 40% needed more than four geo-services to make their applications work the way they wanted (some as many as 7). That too would seem like common sense, but what is surprising is the number of times we see developers go to the latest map tile server only to discover that all that "other" stuff wasn’t included. That’s probably because those “other things” are pretty hard to do; ask anyone who has built an internationalized single-line free-form geo-coder. We have built those services, tuned them for different countries and use cases and provided them to hundreds of customers (including some of the biggest in mobile and the Internet) over our 14 year history.
  • Developers want choice of map data: For years, the location world hasn’t had many choices when it comes to map data. Now, there are more (not many) options and some apps are looking for ways to hit certain markets by using map data that allows them to hit the right price/performance combination in the market. OpenStreetMap is one choice and we’re big fans; have been since 2009 when we first offered it. But we also support a wide range of maps from NAVTEQ/Nokia, TomTom, AND, Sensis, NAV2, eMapgo and others. That gives developers a lot of choices for coverage as well as features.

Some people cast Google’s decision to charge for maps as "See! Google really is Evil!" We don’t. Google has built a great mapping property and we truly respect that. But Google is a business with objectives to build profits through a combination of advertising revenue (which means that they will want to push THEIR ads to THEIR maps as a condition of use) and, more recently, by charging for services. That makes good business sense for them and shouldn’t surprise anyone. But it also doesn’t work for everyone.

So, if your business wants to control your own brand, differentiate itself from others, control the advertising revenue stream, emphasize the content you’ve built, or maybe just wants to save some money, we hope you’ll check out what we have to offer. You can do that easily at

1 NY TImes : Facing Fees, Some Sites Are Bypassing Google Maps
Techcrunch : Wikipedia’s Mobile Apps Drop Google Maps for OpenStreetMap
Techdirt : Google Maps Exodus Continues As Wikipedia Mobile Apps Switch To OpenStreetMap