back to article 'At least I can walk away with my dignity' – Streetmap founder after Google lawsuit loss

“The thing that snookered us came eight years after the event,” Kate Sutton of Streetmap told The Register late last week, following the High Court’s ruling that Google’s manipulation of search results did not destroy her business despite that being exactly what happened. Streetmap, the online mapping service, lost its High …

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  1. Known Hero
    Unhappy

    My condolences.

    Although not on the same scale, it felt like it at the time, I have gone up against insurance companies in the courts (without lawyers) and it is a horrifying scary endeavour, which just makes you want to bury your head in the sand on a daily basis.

    I congratulate her for being able to stand up against what is wrong and I am sad justice has yet again been somewhat blind to honesty.

    1. wolfetone Silver badge

      Re: My condolences.

      Justice isn't blind to honesty, it just gets a helping hand from whoever has the biggest wallet.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: My condolences.

      Lesson 1: You may be right, but that doesn't mean you're going to win in court.

      I can tell you a couple of stories where judges have gotten it wrong, even in appellate court. If you have deep enough pockets, you can continue to fight, but at some point.. you have to know when to suck it up and move on. Trust me, I've been there.

      The truth about maps... Streetmap doesn't make their own maps. That hurts them. Google initially bought data / maps from Tele-Atlas and Navteq. Until they decided to make their own and added streetview which Navteq also offered. (And then there's the whole thing with LIDAR. Google recruiters were all over the phones in Navteq's Randolph Street offices.)

      In terms of maps, you have Google, HERE, Apple, and Tele-Atlas. Streetmap would rank below Tele-Atlas. Sorry.

      IMHO, Streetmaps needed better lawyers and should have sued Google in Texas. ;-)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: You rate Here?

        HERE? Are you joking. They wanted £160+ per year for SatNav updates. I can buy a TomTom or Garmin for less than that. For less than two years HERE subs I can buy a TomTom with updates for the life of the device.

        The maps in the SatNav are effing awful to boot. Eg, does not show the A25 running from Guilford to Dorking until you zoom in a long way.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: You rate Here?

          "HERE? Are you joking. They wanted £160+ per year for SatNav updates."

          Since when? Last I checked, Here and its maps were free on Android.

          1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
            Thumb Down

            Re: You rate Here?

            HERE Maps on Android

            Free, but I am rapidly running out of patience with it. It used to be that you could set the voice option to "None", and that setting would be preserved between updates of the App. At some point, they changed it such that it would not preserve the setting and would default to the voice option after an update. Sometimes it's not preserved the setting between invocations either.

            And the response from HERE support:

            "yes, for every update the option "none" for the voice needs to be re-saved."

            I guess that's the "price" of "free"

            Pity, the Nokia maps on the N9 were good, free of gimmicks. The only point I could fault was that the device was somewhat underpowered for the app, and could not keep pace at times, especially at roundabouts.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: You rate Here?

          @AC

          Where you think Garmin gets their map data?

          Hint. Its HERE.

          1. Not That Andrew

            Re: You rate Here?

            That certainly explains why the maps on Garmin's consumer GPS's are slightly pants

        3. Jobacon

          Re: You rate Here?

          Googlemaps are awful! I often resort to Streetfinder to find the true route. I have TWICE been so badly misled by the inaccuracy of Google maps that I missed a meeting, wandering completely the wrong way. They also invented a tube station in Ludgate Circus!

        4. Julifriend

          Re: You rate Here?

          "HERE? Are you joking. They wanted £160+ per year for SatNav updates. I can buy a TomTom or Garmin for less than that. For less than two years HERE subs I can buy a TomTom with updates for the life of the device."

          That's a very expensive Sat Nav! My Garmin with lifetime updates cost £79.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: My condolences.

        "Streetmap doesn't make their own maps."

        No. They use OS maps instead.

        Somehow Google never seem to get round to little details like contouring and such like. The irony of all this is that Google's maps really are just street maps. Streetmap's maps are maps of the terrain. No contest in my view.

        1. R 11

          Re: My condolences.

          "The irony of all this is that Google's maps really are just street maps. Streetmap's maps are maps of the terrain. No contest in my view."

          Of course, you could turn on the terrain view in Google Maps - https://goo.gl/maps/UCJNtm4zhVu

          Certainly it's not the same as an OS map, but topographic details are certainly there. At least in the US, this data has been available for a decade.

          1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

            Re: My condolences.

            @R 11

            Certainly it's not the same as an OS map, but topographic details are certainly there. At least in the US, this data has been available for a decade.

            For OS maps of Blighty, you can switch the view in Bing

            https://binged.it/2l1402K

            (of course, for higher resolution, you'd need to use the OS site/App)

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: My condolences.

          "The irony of all this is that Google's maps really are just street maps. Streetmap's maps are maps of the terrain."

          Which should tell you simple, clear street maps were what people wanted most of the time. Still are, especially when navigating by car. Early Google maps features were about finding addresses and not much more.

          And I can't possible agree Streetmaps tech was better. It was painfully clunky to use.

      3. Wunderbar1

        Re: My condolences.

        Agree. I doubt that Google won maps solely because of search rank. There was a fair amount of effort and resources, e.g. Google streetview, that went into Google being king of the map mountain. Also, unless you believe that Google had some obligation to promote a competitive product on one of their other products over their own product, I don't see any foul here. Google is going to bring up geo queries with a Google geo result first. Like Bing brings up a Bing Maps result first instead of a Google Maps result first (I presume, not sure anyone has ever tested it). It is kind of like saying that I invented some DB acceleration tool, which would have been huge if Oracle had promoted it first within their DB instead of embedding their own acceleration tool in order to make their DB a better product.

        1. Ptol

          Re: My condolences.

          Monopolies do have an obligation to not use a monopoly in one market sector to obtain a monopoly in another market. Google are very much at risk of accusations that they abuse their search monopoly to obtain market share in other markets, and they no doubt have lawyers trying to make this area of law as muddy as possible and then get governments to rewrite such laws in their favour.

    3. tr1ck5t3r

      Re: My condolences.

      Monopoly laws might apply. And if they dont, theres an area of law which could be modified to reflect the change.

      The basic premise of a search engine ranking is it work on whats the most popular, but then Google applies some algo's which promote or demote certain sites matched to search terms, see the Ted.com talk on "Beware your Filter Bubble".

      So just like Google famously demotes anti-Semitic websites, it can do the same for other websites.

      Did anyone expect a Judge who is little more than a dictator of law, be anything but biased when the legal profession is on its knees due to the cut back of legal aid?

      The judge almost certainly has a tie with Google either directly or indirectly, now or in the future.

      Perhaps he is being blackmailed by the local lodge or even Google itself! After all Google has been recording everything since the 1990's.

      Blackmail the 2nd oldest profession in the world.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: My condolences.

        "Monopoly laws might apply"

        In particular the ones relating to a company leveraging its dominance in ONE area of the market to obtain a dominant position in OTHER parts of the market.

        That one is so painfully obvious that I'm sure Streetmap's lawyers pulled it up, but I've never seen judges rule that doing so is ok because of the "consumer benefit" before.

    4. Mark 65 Silver badge

      Re: My condolences.

      To be fair, the responsiveness and ability to drag to scroll was what switched me from Streetmap to Google. The natural language search just topped it off. Streetmap was great at first, very useful, but the problem with being one of the first is that you need to keep innovating because the challenger can see what they have to beat - you get no such insight into them. They didn't innovate in my opinion and died on their arse for usability reasons.

  2. Zippy's Sausage Factory
    Flame

    "Don't be evil".

    Nope. This may not be pure evil, but it was definitely well along the road...

    1. Goldmember

      At the risk of sounding controversial...

      ... I don't agree. Yes, the idea that Google isn't the "dominant" search engine is ludicrous. But so what? Does that mean Google has a responsibility for smaller companies, to stop them going out of business?

      Google made a competing product (which may or may not have been better than the competition). It promoted its own product, ranking it higher on its own network than those of the competition. The competition subsequently lost market share.

      This is just business. Build a product. Promote the product effectively. Grow the business. Eat up or destroy the competition. If you're clever, gain monopoly status (or get close to it). If Google had used underhanded tactics to take down Streetmap then fair enough, there's a case to answer. But simply promoting its own product over the competition, on its own website? I'd say that's just tough titties.

      1. Grunchy

        Re: At the risk of sounding controversial...

        This sounds like another 'who moved my cheese' lesson.

      2. joekhul

        Re: At the risk of sounding controversial...

        Don't try that sort of "logical" thinking @ El Trumpland. This site has been on the tank side for awhile, and now that King Blowhard has been elected the fall down the shaft has been fast and furious.

        Trying to explain to Regtards why a company shouldn't have to promote other people's products over it's own is like trying to explain to a Trump-ite why the earth isn't flat. Wall meet head!

      3. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

        Re: Eat up or destroy the competition.

        Life is less binary than this.

        Why is it that the only perceived options in the world are to eat up, destroy, or be destroyed? Survival of the fittest doesn't mean destroying everything else, because if you did there would be nothing to eat.

        A bit of altruism goes a long way, and this could arguably have resulted in Google ending up getting a far superior product down the line. Not possible now as the bridges have been burned.

        Monopolies bring with them their own problems.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Eat up or destroy the competition.

          "Why is it that the only perceived options in the world are to eat up, destroy, or be destroyed? Survival of the fittest doesn't mean destroying everything else, because if you did there would be nothing to eat."

          Because if you don't destroy the competition, some of them will start beating you to your lunch, meaning you don't get to eat, either. I mean, that's how it works in most other parts of nature. And we're still part of nature. Sure, there are some who would demand that businesses cater to their fellow man first (and if they can't make a buck while doing so, they're in the wrong line of work according to them), but businesses are just extensions of people, and people still have primal instincts such as to live, reproduce, and so on. What goes on beyond their little tribe (and remember, humans are more tribal than social),as long as they're not in the way, isn't really their concern. After all, a little altruism has as much chance of turning against you as going forward.

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

        3. Anomalous Cowshed

          Re: Eat up or destroy the competition.

          Excuse me but the problem is that Google has a near monopoly on searching.

          Therefore google is in a position of dominance, de facto controlling most Internet users' access to information about products and services.

          Therefore google has a legal obligation to report search results neutrally, else it is abusing its dominant position.

          Otherwisewhat is to stop Google from setting up any kind business and using its dominant position as a source of information ("search engine") to unfairly overcome the competition and drive them out of business?

      4. eesiginfo

        Re: At the risk of sounding controversial...

        ---- It promoted its own product, ranking it higher on its own network than those of the competition. The competition subsequently lost market share. -----

        NO!

        It's not supposed to work like that.

        When providing access to the data, you're not supposed to manipulate the access in favour of your other products.

        Remember windows and browsers?

        The concept is to prevent one corporation dominating everything.

        ... but it looks like this concept is failing.

      5. Twilight

        Re: At the risk of sounding controversial...

        >>>This is just business. Build a product. Promote the product effectively. Grow the business. Eat up or destroy the competition. If you're clever, gain monopoly status (or get close to it). If Google had used underhanded tactics to take down Streetmap then fair enough, there's a case to answer. But simply promoting its own product over the competition, on its own website? I'd say that's just tough titties.<<<

        Nope. Actually this is exactly what the laws are SUPPOSED to prevent. Google clearly had (and has) the dominant search engine. They (according to Streetmap) used this position to then promote another completely different area of their business to the detriment of (supposedly) superior companies in that area of business.

        Assuming what Streetmap is saying is true, this is basically exactly what Microsoft lost its antitrust case for (bundling IE (and other software) into Windows for no reason other than to promote its own product at the expense of other companies because it had the dominant OS).

      6. DavCrav Silver badge

        Re: At the risk of sounding controversial...

        "Google made a competing product (which may or may not have been better than the competition). It promoted its own product, ranking it higher on its own network than those of the competition. The competition subsequently lost market share.

        This is just business. Build a product. Promote the product effectively. Grow the business. Eat up or destroy the competition. If you're clever, gain monopoly status (or get close to it). If Google had used underhanded tactics to take down Streetmap then fair enough, there's a case to answer. But simply promoting its own product over the competition, on its own website? I'd say that's just tough titties."

        That's business. Illegal business as defined by abuse of dominant position.

      7. newt123456

        Re: At the risk of sounding controversial...

        This is like saying, I'll buy major parts of the highway, and then saying you cannot drive on it, because I don't want you to (I only want my cars to get to work on time). You have to walk to work.

        1. Goldmember

          Re: At the risk of sounding controversial...

          "This is like saying, I'll buy major parts of the highway, and then saying you cannot drive on it, because I don't want you to (I only want my cars to get to work on time). You have to walk to work."

          No, it's more like saying "This is my highway. So there's a dedicated lane for my cars. The rest of you are welcome to use my highway, but you can fight it out in the other lanes. Or use a competing highway."

          Again, I don't see a problem. On a personal and moral level it may be dubious, but companies aren't people. They don't have moral compasses. All they have are lawyers to tell them what they can and can't do.

          1. Just An Engineer

            Re: At the risk of sounding controversial...

            "On a personal and moral level it may be dubious, but companies aren't people." Actually in the US according to the SCOTUS they are people.

  3. druck
    Thumb Down

    Not as good

    People stopped using streetmap because it was simply not as good, in just about every way you can think of.

    If it has been an equivalent offering with smooth scrolling and zooming instead of an incredibly tedious and clunky tiled interface, then they may have been able to argue the built in search results had something to do with it. As it is she's just made the lawyers richer, and literally lost the farm.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not as good

      Bear in mind that to provide a decent map service requires a lot of processing power, vast storage and good connectivity, which all costs money. Google has stacks, OSM does not.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not as good

        Bear in mind that to provide a decent map service requires a lot of processing power, vast storage and good connectivity, which all costs money. Google has stacks, OSM does not.

        If by "OSM", you are referring to OpenStreetMap, then that has not a great deal to do with streetmap.co.uk, which is the organisation we are discussing today.

        As the article points out, streetmap.co.uk was pulling in a quarter mill plus per month at their height, and they should have had plenty to invest in developing their platform, so there's no real excuse for it looking like something out of the late nineties.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Not as good

          I seem to remember finding Mulitimap better than Streetmap before finding Google Maps better.

          1. Korev Silver badge

            Re: Not as good

            I like that you have OS maps available in Streetmap.

          2. Erroneous Howard

            Re: Not as good - Multimap

            Yup I'm with you there as well. Used Multimap regularly, at least until Google jumped ahead in the game.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @AC ... Re: Not as good

        Define what you mean by 'lots of processing power'?

        Its not as much as you would think. But it was definitely more than what Street Map had.

        In 2007 Google was still buying data. So they didn't have all that much compute power devoted to Maps. What they did have was bandwidth and a good UI.

        Posted Anon because I know something about making maps.

      3. Gotno iShit Wantno iShit

        Re: Not as good@ AC

        This is about streetmap.co.uk not OpenStreetMap.

    2. Hollerithevo Silver badge

      Re: Not as good

      I always wanted to use it, but the jumps in magnification were too crude and they offered no way to embed their maps. This was the killer for me. A nice little bit of iframe code generation would have given them a good chance. I was looking for maps that didn't have our competitors and the local chip shops all over it. Could have been them, but no

      But the judges who felt that Google wasn't a dominant player in search really should check out dictionaries, where 'to google' is a new verb.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not as good

        Re Hollerithevo

        Well the means to make your own mapserver without chip shops can be found on the OSM pages , along with free mapservers.

        You can even add a layer for your own locations

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Not as good

        but the jumps in magnification were too crude and they offered no way to embed their maps.

        I seem to remember that part of Streetmaps problem was the use of OS maps, where at the time the OS were 'iffy' about the use of their full mapping data - hence one of the reasons why Streetmaps used tiles and zoom used different ranges of OS maps.

        Obviously, looking at Bing's use of OS maps, whilst they have a better zoom, but still don't have access to the full suite of OS maps.

        The big benefit of OS maps is the grid, I know by simply looking at the map what 1km looks like at the scale I'm displaying it at. With Google maps (and others) this handy aid is absent.

        The other benefit is the consistent usage of symbols, colour and line style, which is cross-referenced to a legend.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Not as good

          "Obviously, looking at Bing's use of OS maps, whilst they have a better zoom"

          Bing also swap between different scaled OS maps but they also zoom to different magnifications of these so you have a choice of too small to be legible, legible and jaggies. I find the zoom painful to watch and unnecessary as only one magnification is really usable. OTOH Bing has better scrolling. If Streetmap were to disappear I suppose I'd have to use Bing but it would be an unpleasant experience.

          One issue common to Streetmap and Bing is the search: they only seem able to find place names starting from the first word; if, for example, you search for Nibley their choices will include a couple of villages called Nibley, Nibley Lane, etc. but miss North Nibley. Google has the edge in this.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Not as good

            "Bing also swap between different scaled OS maps but they also zoom to different magnifications of these so you have a choice of too small to be legible, legible and jaggies."

            If you're using GIS as the underlaying engine then this should all be stored as points plus vectors and scaling is no longer an issue. It's not difficult to draw maps with the level of details required for navigation on the fly.

            You only have jaggies if you're scaling a fixed image.

    3. Steve K Silver badge

      Re: Not as good

      Unfortunately I have to agree here, whilst I sympathise with her at a personal level.

      If people liked StreetMap then they would have been bookmarking the URL and so would not have been swayed by the Google search ranking.

      I used to use Streetmap a lot, BUT that was because there was no alternative. Once Google Maps came along, the difference in functionality was clear and I never went back.

      I don't know if they would argue that they could have invested in a better interface if their monthly revenues had not dived so much, but once Google brought out a Maps service the writing was on the wall. Bing Maps, Apple Maps and the advent of mapping licensing for mobile devices (Nokia/TomTom) would have killed them off in another few months anyway.

      I think that you can see the same thing happened to Yellow Pages (used to be 6 cm + thick, now < 1cm thick and discarded as soon as it hits the doormat), FriendsReunited, FotoServe...

      I feel sorry for her, but I think that it was a mistake to pursue things this far - particularly against someone with pockets as deep as Google.

      The article suggests she may have had some funding, so at least she may not have had to sell up to fund the case, but if she has sold family assets to refinance Streetmap then she IMHO is once again mistaken.

      The world does not need another mapping applicatio - that is a fight from another era, and already won by the giants (or provided by OpenStreetMap if you eschew the commerce-led offerings).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Steve K Re: Not as good

        First, circa 2007, Google was buying map data from Navteq. (Before Nokia bought them). Apple too. Garmin, certain car manufacturers... Navteq missed a huge opportunity in not going online and creating a mapping website. Or combining data sets... Lets just say that the management of Navteq were fat dumb and happy at the time and didn't care about innovation.

        Tom Tom bought Tele-atlas which forced Nokia to buy Navteq.

        There's more, so much more but even as an AC, I'm still limited what I could say. ;-)

        But yes, while she had a case, it was a tough one to prove in courts especially where the burden of proof was on her to plead her case.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not as good

        What's being forgotten is Google maps was in beta, needing specific searches to even find for many months. Streetmap had many months of notice to up their game and did nothing. All that time they were benefiting from sites linking to them but Maps was building loyal users that had to find it themselves.

        Streetmaps lost long before Google started actively competing, through complacency.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @druck Re: Not as good

      You have a couple of issues.

      First, all map data is stored in tiles. Its more efficient that way.

      Second, what you described is the UI and not a question about the data quality.

      There's more to it, but you get the idea.

      Not having the infrastructure and not having their own source data for maps is what killed them.

      One could argue though that they couldn't raise the funds because Google shut them out.

      They should have spent more on better lawyers.

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