Posted April 5, 2007 10:23 am by with 14 comments

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Man, talk about a kick in the groin. Over the past few months, Google has been happily providing a Google Maps API to any developer that asked, and encouraging them to create mash-ups (ie. add their own useful content) of the mapping search technology.

Little did these poor unsuspecting fools realize, Google was sitting back and watching to see whether the mash-ups would be popular or not, effectively using the external developers as free labor. The proof comes with Google’s announced launch of My Maps, which allows any regular Joe to create custom maps for sharing tips or annotating Google Maps.

My Maps users can:

  • Mark locations on a map from a library of icons
  • Draw lines and shapes to highlight paths and areas
  • Add text, photos, or YouTube/Google Videos to a map
  • Add HTML for further personalization
  • View their maps in Google Earth

This is the second time in four months that Google has effectively pulled the rug from under API developers (clarification: the Maps API is still available, but Google is now competing against many that use it for mash-ups). While these developers had no right to expect a free lunch from Google forever, you can bet that they’ll think twice about building a business around any Google service in the future.

* All that said, for us non-developers, this is a pretty cool new feature!

  • “Don’t be Evil” – Unless it means you can getting free labor and feedback 😉

    I do feel sorry for the programmers out there putting time into these mashups, but as a non-developer I must agree that this is a COOL tool.

  • So are you saying they are shutting out API calls to people who have built their own solutions for their websites?

    “This is the second time in four months that Google has effectively pulled the rug from under API developers.”

    That’s what I get from that comment but I can find no reference on the Google pages.

  • I tried that new tool. TBO its a pain in the ass and takes way to much time. I figured the benefit of the google map api was automation, correct me if I am wrong.

    I am also very curious to know if they plan on shutting down the API.

  • No, sorry for the confusion. They’re not closing down the maps API, but they are now directly competing against those that built businesses around it.

  • David L

    This is mentioned several times on the Google ‘terms of use’ statement – and not in fine print.

    “Service may be used only for services that are generally accessible to consumers without charge.”

    So people can not “build businesses around it”, and if they did they violated the nature of the agreement. Why would one expect them to exclude themselves from offering the same “Free” service.

  • David, I believe placing ads alongside the mash-up is the way many make money from mash-ups.

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  • I believe the API still provides opportunities for developers that goes beyond what you can do with the My Maps tool.

  • Don’t expect API-developers to be that naiv. We’re using G-Maps and we were sure that google would somehow “exploit” our work (maybe exploit is a little harsh though) but we had to decide which map-service to go with. Ask, Msn and others offer similar services,too.

    We still believe that both parties profit:
    Google profits from having free labor, free “live” labs and statistics and more.
    Developers profit from valueable free data and a really flexible map-tool and the underlying data.

    In our eyes it is a really good example of a win-win.

    If Google would shut down the api one day, we would simply switch to one of the other map-services out there.

    @David L: It is possible to build business around G-Maps without violating the terms – just have a look at our site (

    There are a lot more pros and cons than talked about here but I don’t want to write a new article here 😉

    PS: please excuse any typos or misspellings – english is my second language.

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  • So what if they used it for their own benefit. At the end of the day that’s what the entire Open Source movement is all about, isn’t it?

    Mozilla did it, and no one cried foul then!

  • I agree with the person who says you should be careful not to build a business model around something controlled by Google. My recommendation is to embed/mash up on a blog or web site that you control the domain name. Try for this.

  • There is certainly a risk in building a business model around the google maps service. You can however hedge your bet by keeping map code isolated and by being prepared to jump to Yahoo or MSN maps if Google pulls something over on us. That’s our outlook at

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