A rant just arrived in my inbox, by Mikel Maron via the Geowanking mailing list. While I think Mikel has some valid points, I am still (naïvely?) optimistic that the bleak picture he paints will not materialise in really bad outcomes. Hopefully.
But who knows. In two events (about one and about three years ago) I asked two GeoGooglers (Ed Parsons being one of them) about the relationship, and its anticipated development, between Google and OpenStreetMap (OSM). Unfortunately (but not surprisingly), the answers were very vague and suggested that OSM is “not perceived as a competition” by Google and also that cooperation is “not impossible”.
I think there is really two sides to these issues:
First of all, I advocate open data and Google Map Maker is NOT open.
On the other hand Google (Map Maker) has lots of traction in, for example, India and (according to Mikel) Africa. It would maybe be quite difficult for initiatives like OSM to develop the same momentum, without a big name like “Google”?
Maybe we are also missing the big picture? What can certainly be said is that people in the mentioned regions have a need to map their environments. They want to see their neighbourhoods, their villages, towns and cities on an online map. They maybe want to embed such a map in their websites, use driving directions or do simple spatial analyses. To me as a geographer this is exciting and I think everybody should have access to mapping technology and everything which supports such initiative should be welcomed. For the moment all evidence points to the fact that to those people the licensing question does not (yet!) seem important…
Side-track: Over at Geowanking Bob describes a vision he had when reading Google licenses:
[I] came to the (somewhat humorous) conclusion, that everyone just needs to use the Google License (or a Google like license) in turn, when setting their data out in the wild, If I figured things correctly, using the Google like license would allow them to grab but not keep, or possibly not grab anything at all, in some cases, and for some reason, it seems like a circle of life sort of solution… The Google License seems to be set up to be mutually exclusive, as in two separate entities using such a license couldn’t use either’s data, or at least not use it in a proprietary way.
What a ‘nice’ vision: a world-wide (geo)data duopoly…
Seriously, I hope Google can soon attain some new unique asset (the whole world in 3D?), so that they can open up their (by then, very old-looking 2D) geodata to the general public.