Topology Errors

30 July 2005

Which Web Mapping Service Does Your Mom Use?

Some GIS’ers question a report that states, “ComScore also noted a bump in traffic to map sites, led by MapQuest, with 45.7 million visitors in June, Yahoo! Maps, with 21.3 million, and MSN MapPoint, with 5 million.” They ask, Why isn’t Google Maps on the list? My reply is that MapQuest has the first mover advantage and it’s going to take a while for the general public to discover that Google Maps provides features not found in MapQuest or Yahoo! Maps. And then we’ll see if they find the new features compelling enough to switch. Frankly, I’m just happy that my Mom knows how to use MapQuest and I'm not looking forward to providing her tech support if she switches to Google Maps.

This reminds me of my friend Steve telling me about Google! beta (note the "!") back in 1998 when I and the rest of my techie friends were using Alta Vista. (My Mom was using Yahoo! at the time.) I thought thanks for the tip but I’ll stick with Alta Vista. Not until a few weeks later, after I had scanned 40+ entries in an Alta Vista web search without finding something that I knew existed, did I evaluate Google. (I had to e-mail Steve for the link because I forgot the URL.) The first item in the Google search results was exactly what I was looking for and I was immediately hooked. Several years later, my Mom also switched from Yahoo! to Google (note the absence of the "!").

In the late 90’s, searching the web was a hit or miss affair that was fixed by Google. In 2005, the public is not frustrated by their web mapping service. And, I’m not certain that they are looking for more functionality either. As a result, this could be a long slow process for Google Maps/Google Earth/MSN Virtual Earth (GM/GE/MVE) to overtake the leaders. The people reading and writing blogs are not indicative of the mass Internet Audience. Rather, we need to keep in mind, “Which web mapping service does my Mom (and everyone else’s Mom) use and is she likely to switch to GM/GE/MVE?”