Google, Mashup Developers Not on Same Map

 
 
By Ben Charny  |  Posted 2006-03-31 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

For commercial developers dissatisfied with the Google Maps API, Placebase's new Pushpin technology promises fewer restrictions and more support.

Web developers combining their creations with Google Maps arent a very happy lot any more.

The unease has given rise to a new technology package, Pushpin—to be formally introduced April 3—and, if history repeats itself, soon will lead to an entire cottage industry trying to soothe the chapped developer hides.

A Googlerepresentative, reached March 31, said Google continues to "receive a positive response from developers."

But thats not the case, according to some with a view from outside of the Mountain View, Calif., company.

"Many professional developers have been held back by licensing restrictions and lack of technical support," said Jaron Waldman, CEO of Los Angeles-based Placebase.

There was once an adoring throng of Web hobbyists and professionals,happy that Google had finally released a set of access instructions, known as an API, so they could combine Google Maps with their own Web-based concoctions.

Google Maps "mashups" have since popped up all over. Many are whimsical, but now developers want to make commercial ventures out of them. For that, they need more help and more resources directly from Google.

But when serious developers turn to the mother ship for a hand, they get no extra help. In fact, you cant even pay Google for a little tech support to get through a rough development patch.

Stepping into the gap, Placebase on April 3 will formally introduce Pushpin, a service aimed at developers wishing to commercialize Google Maps mashups.

The Pushpin feature bears many similarities to Googles own maps and developer tools.

In fact, to a large degree, the underlying technology is a mirror image of Googles. Placebase has also filled Pushpins database with a near-replica of the set of maps that Google makes available.

On first blush, Pushpin raises potentially troubling questions about patent infringement, a perception that the firm is well aware of, according to Placebases Waldman.

But Waldman said he is sure that the company is well-protected from such allegations. It built its API from scratch and filled in missing pieces using software developed in the open-source community, where use of intellectual property is free.

Also, "Our servers dont touch their servers," Waldman said, so Google would have no justification for shutting them down under its service terms.

For all the similarities between the two, there are major differences. Of most importance, perhaps, is that Pushpin allows more complex mashups than Google supports. For instance, DataPlace, a real estate Web site, lets visitors create their own maps or charts, a personal touch missing from Google API-based mashups like HousingMaps,which combines Google Maps and listings from Craigslist.

Also, Pushpin opens the door for Google Maps mashups on closed computer networks, such as those serving universities or enterprises. Thats not possible under the terms Google sets, which require that any use of Google maps be available to anyone.

What is Google rival Yahoo doing to woo map developers? Click here to read more.

Pushpin also doesnt cap the number of times an application can tap its map database. Under the terms of Googles API, the creator of any maps mashup that exceeds 50,000 hits a month must then contact Google. At that point, Google could suspend the service until a deal between the two entities is worked out, according to the Google Maps service terms.

Also, Pushpin doesnt require that Googles brand appear on the maps, whereas Google does.

Another difference, perhaps even more eye-opening to Google, is that Pushpin costs $1,600 a month. As one observer said, "Google doesnt like to leave money on the table like that."

Guru Jakob Nielsen offers advice on designing applications for usability. Click here to watch the video.

Waldman indicated that theres already a long list of Pushpin customers, but didnt identify them.

Google didnt respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

Pushpin debuts at a time when Yahoo, a major Google competitor, appears to be having more success in attracting mashup developers to its mapping features. The reason? Theres more support, said a source with knowledge of the situation.

Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis in programming environments and developer tools.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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