My Maps at Google: Is Google Doing a Microsoft?

The new My Maps feature at Google — you can annotate and create your own customized maps — is slick, and something I was recently looking for. But the niftiest aspect of the new feature is how Google has integrated personalized maps into Google search results as just another form of local content. As Brady says, that’s much more interesting than mere annotation.

More broadly, is this an example of Google doing a Microsoft? Back in the bad days when Microsoft decided to beat up a would-be competitor it would release the product itself, while integrating it into the operating system (c.f, Internet Explorer). Given that the Google operating system is really search results themselves, how is releasing new features like My Maps (a service that compete directly with existing products like Platial and Frappr), and immediately adding all geo-indexed pages to local search, any different than what Microsoft used to do?

Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s a fine thing to make new content searchable. I just wonder if we’re not seeing the early stages of how lock-in via the Google search o/s will work.

[Update] Had an email conversation with a Google representative on this subject today. The gist: Google is not giving preferential search-ability to its own KML files. Platial and other KML files will be searched and ordered algorithmically, with My Maps not ahead in the queue.

Fair enough, that seems a reasonable way to do things. I still think that immediate data availability in Google search is one of the keys to understanding how non-traffic lock-in might work in a Google search O/S, but my musings here about search-specific lock-in have turned out to be more hypothetical than Google My Maps-specific.

On the other hand, this is still an example of Microsoft competing with its own supposed ecosystem. Granted, annotated maps are a nice feature, but what’s the incentive to spend money building on Google’s API if you’re just going to get creamed? Shades of Microsoft? You bet.


  1. The difference, it seems to me is that msft has a much more dominant (and important) position in the ecosystem with 90% product share. goog, with its healthy, although not monopolistic share of the search market, is doing what any good Mckinsey consultant would suggest. lock in your customers.

  2. Ever notice that once Google rolls out something new that you try it, see that there’s something different/cooler about it, then find yourself ALWAYS going to it when you need to? Search was like that, online ad solutions, email, maps, and now these even cooler maps. Their next target should be an encyclopedic info source, currently Wikipedia-dominated. With all of Google’s scholarly publication info sources and search technology, they will dominate this space as well – once they decide on the factor that will make it “cooler” to use than the competition.

  3. The only reasons to use someone’s APIs are:
    – project to teach yourself something
    – fun
    – hoping that the company will notice your product and hire you
    – rapid prototyping to sell a concept to others
    If you are trying to build a scale business based solely on someone’s APIs without any contractual arrangements that give you access to that API at a known price, you’re an idiot.
    For those using Google’s APIs, and you’re successful, one of two things will happen:
    – Google will buy you for a pittance to get your dev talent.
    – Google will replicate your product and crush you.

  4. You have a great point.
    I would add one clarification.
    It’s a spectrum, right?
    On the far right, you have perceived MSFT-like behavior: let other companies do all the hardwork and once they figure out and it’s a viable market, come in and integrate to take all their share based on their work.
    On the far left, you have something totally harmless. As you develop the initial product that others will build off of, you have a number of great ideas for more features, etc. But as a team you decide on what’s core to get out first, and what you want to work on. Just because someone else built off the API immediately doesn’t mean that if you, as the original product developer, come out with that feature later, are stealing from them. This could have been part of the initial feature roll-out plan from the beginning. It’s just that to the market, it looks like you’re skimming off the best ideas to take as your own. But if it’s true that the best ideas are often the most obvious, it’s certainly possible they were obviously possible to the original development team at inception as well.
    It’s all a question of intent to me.
    I don’t know where Google falls on this, I’m just merely pointing it out.
    Great post!