So (no surprise here), Google is ramping up to start monetizing their map system.
There are a lot of companies and people pushing this "Web 2.0" idea. Never mind the fact that none of them seem to be able to define it (is it AJAX? is it cross-site use of APIs? is it simply a deep version of hot linking? does it involve lots of words that sound vaguely like English? does it involve another stock bubble?). Phil Wainewright over at ZDNet goes even further; he talks about "Web 3.0" (when companies learn to monetize the undefined "Web 2.0"). If he's right, than Google is leading the charge to Web 3.0.
People like Dave Berlind push the idea that the Internet rocks, because anyone can start a new business using a "mashup". Yes, it is true that you can put together a very interesting website, maybe even a complete application as a "mashup". You might even be able to monetize it. But to think that you are going to build a system for free out of other people's data is insane. Imagine if each time you booted up a RedHat Linux system, your computer took up a bunch of RedHat's bandwidth. Eventually, they are going to need you to pay for that bandwidth, whether it be by direct payment, or through advertising dollars.
This is the problem with "mashups". People are using a free service to try togenerate revenue. How long do you think that service will be provided to you and your customers at no cost and with no ads? And when the ads come, do you want the ads that seem to appear on your site to be under the editorial control of a different company? Let's say that you are running a religious website, and you have a map showing the location for a sermon about "Removing Lust from your Heart". Google graciously puts the locations of the nearest adult novelty shops within a 50 mile radius of your church on the map. Just what your visitors wanted, I'm sure.
Call me silly, call me crazy, but I would laugh if I were a venture capitalist or investment banker and heard a pitch that relied upon a third party keeping their service free and ad-free. I would say, "look pal, you're being set up, the moment a critical mass of companies rely upon that third party, the third party will tell you 'give us money or get stuck with ads', you're doing business with unknown costs, and you think I'm going to give you money?" And anyone who starts a business involving actual money on a "mashup" is a fool, or naive, or worse. Thanks, but I'd rather pay up front, and know what my costs are for the data, and be able to use it my own way.
Don't get me wrong, "mashups" can be neat, they can be cool, but I would never in a million years consider using one as a business or as a tool for my business. Personal site? Sure. Non commercial/non profit site? Sure. Business? No way.
Justin James is the Lead Architect for Conigent.