Google Maps Gets Personal
Google Maps, like most other mapping engines has long made its API available to third-party developers, best documented by the Google Maps Mania blog. MyMaps gives the power to the people to have a certain degree of this programming ability in an easier to use tool (an in-depth review of the features is at Search Engine Land). This is similar to the personalization and tools being rolled out across the quickly moving online mapping space.
Other examples are Windows Live Local’s Collections feature, which has been out since last year’s relaunch; Ask City’s custom maps and drawing tools; and Yahoo!’s TagMaps. This also follows closely behind Microsoft Live Maps’ launch of ratings and reviews, which similarly takes a step toward more social interactivity and personalization in map-based local search. Otherwise, we’re seeing lots of feature development all over the online mapping space, including live traffic reports and 3-D imagery.
As we’ve said in the past, the name of the game in online mapping (like search) is rapid fire feature rollouts to create stickiness and increase market share. That traffic is of course monetized through ever-developing SEM and other ad programs. Bringing more small businesses online (Webification) to grow the addressable market of small business that will take part in local paid search is the other piece of this puzzle that will better monetize the traffic. In Google’s case, its hosted business pages and Local Business Center are clear efforts on this front.
There are lots of balls in the air among the small set of portal mapping and local offerings (now complete with the AOL Local launch). The overall local search market will meanwhile continue to fragment with increasing social search, mapping, city guide and IYP-type offerings from smaller players. Though it can be seen as “anyone’s game” among the major mapping and local search providers, it’s unlikely that a clear overall winner will emerge any time soon.