april 2004 archives

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Premium services on mapping websites

Recently, I received an email from someone writing an article on paid content for a Brazilian magazine who noticed that Multimap.com charges for Full Address Search and Traffic Info, whereas other mapping websites don't charge for their features. He asked whether there are other mapping websites that charge visitors for premium services.

Ever since the dotcom bubble burst, mapping websites have tried new ways to generate revenue from their public websites. Certainly, their Business to Business products make up most of the revenue, but it would be great for their Business to Consumer products, mainly their public websites, to at least cover the costs.

Multimap.com has always been the only one UK mapping website to allow the general public to pinpoint their location to address-accuracy, whereas others tend to go down only as far as postcode level or street level. Ordnance Survey, the UK national mapping agency, offers the Address Point product: they have attached geographic coordinates to Royal Mail Postcode Address File (PAF), a public limited company wholly owned by the Government. Because of the level of detail and as both the Ordnance Survey and Royal Mail are not government organisations anymore, the Address Point product comes at a considerable cost. Furthermore, the Ordnance Survey have not really got to grips with e-commerce strategies and are therefore imposing ridiculous pricing structures for Internet transactions. For the Multimap.com website to cover its costs, it was not possible anymore to provide address-level searches for free. However, many members of the general public relied on this service, for example sales persons from companies typically check the Multimap.com website before visiting their clients to get a map and obtain travel directions. The premium Full Address Search caters for this group of users of the Multimap.com website. Since other mapping websites do not have such a strong focus on the UK (e.g. Maporama, or never used to provide address-level geocoding (e.g. Streetmap), Multimap.com is the only mapping website to feature Full Address Search as a premium service.

The premium Traffic Info service is part of the business development initiatives that Multimap.com has set up. Since the public website attracts a lot of traffic, it is an interesting portal for other location-based services: e.g. to book a hotel, restaurant in the area on the map. Again, traffic information is only provided as a paid-for service, because the transactional costs cannot be recovered from the ad revenue on the public website alone. I am not aware of other mapping websites having similar business development initiatives to take full advantage of their public websites. Of course MapQuest partners up with Weather.com and Google.com to deliver content, but the flow of services go both ways. The look and feel of the mapping websites also points in this direction. Whereas most mapping websites are able to present a clear and strong branding on their websites, the Multimap.com website is cluttered with various areas of advertising for their business development services. By the way, ViaMichelin provides traffic information for the UK for free!

Although not a mapping website like MapQuest or Maporama, Mapminder, a highly personalised mapping and navigation service for the UK whose members can search for detailed street maps, find routes and map personal information from their address book, can only be accessed by paying subscribers.

In Brazil, the mapping website MapLink charges, on a subscription-based format, for some premium services since September 2003. The future plans are to leave only the mapping function as a free service, and charge for the other services, like point to point routing, multi point routing, detailed traffic info, etc... Even though MapLink has a hand full of (free) local competitors, users who are interested in very exact directions and premium services are still willing to subscribe. By the way, I really like the Portuguese word for route planner: roteirizadorpermanent link for this entry

Geographic data suppliers: one month on

Rapid changes are taking place in the field of geographic data suppliers. Only a few weeks after I first drew a picture of the geographic data market, NavTech reinvented itself and changed its name to NAVTEQ. One month on, and there's even bigger news: TeleAtlas is to acquire GDT.

This acquisition is a sensible move of TeleAtlas, given NAVTEQ's strong position in the in-vehicle navigation market. Secondly, Microsoft MapPoint is very much forcing the commoditisation of street data. So maybe there is some good in this evil? Who will know. Finally, because of increased quality of commercial data, what's the added value of navigable street databases produced by costly national mapping agenciespermanent link for this entry

Monday, April 26, 2004

Atomised

The webmapper.net website now features an atom formatted XML site feed. Although it was available from Blogger a while ago, it took me a while to get round to look at it properly. There used to be some small issues with the permanent links in the feed. This has been fixed now, so there hopefully won't be any dead links now.

Why atom? Well, it's just laziness, really. Blogger creates the feed for you when you update your blog, so why should I reinvent the wheel? If you know of an easy way to get this feed into RSS 1.0 or RSS 2.0, please let me knowpermanent link for this entry

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Mapping website for Webby

Just a few weeks after Map24 relaunched, particularly targetting the North American and Scandinavian markets, it has become the first mapping website to have been nominated for the Webby Awards. Fair enough, map-related websites such as Vindigo.com, Geocaching.com, and the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection have gone before Map24, but even an Internet dinosaur like MapQuest has never featured on the list of nominees.

The nomination in the “Technical Achievement” category is certainly well-deserved! Its maps are very clear, are rendered very fast and the interface has got some very smart features. I just love the rocket that allows you to quickly zoom in and out for easy orientation. Winners will be announced May 12, 2004.  permanent link for this entry

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

SVG Open 2005 in the Netherlands?

Just a quick one, as it has been to long I posted something about SVG: just found out Twente University in Enschede, the Netherlands, has officially invited SVG Open 2005 to its campus. How cool that would be, hey! The committee of recommendations includes representatives from Statistics Netherlands, ITC, and the Telematica Institute. Apparently, Paris is another contender as they lost their bid this year to Tokyopermanent link for this entry

Monday, April 05, 2004

Local search lawsuit

Just a few weeks after Google released its local search facility as a public beta, Digital Envoy sues Google over location-specific advertising. Digital Envoy's technology enables Google to relate a geographic location to a person's IP address. According to the contract, this information is only to be used on Google's website to present specific content to a geographically-confined audience. However, Google's using this technology as part of its AdSense programme, thus applying Digital Envoy's technology beyond its own website! Let's hope this won't be the end of local searching on Google. Information about one's location more and more seems to be highly valuable!  permanent link for this entry