I use that on my phone as a Satfor navigation, and from time to time from the desktop (eg when planning a holiday so that places Inote as I'm interested in get sync'ed to the phone)
Google’s High Court victory against Streetmap on Friday will have a chilling effect on digital startups and British SMEs. The verdict in the Streetmap.eu v Google Inc competition case set a new hurdle for proving that a dominant player had caused harm – one that’s now far higher than it is in the rest of the EU. What happened …
They'll be soooorrrreeeeee!
Another Merkan super-corporate playing fast and loose with UK law, and another situation where UK law has brown-nosed its way into making things that much harder for the locals. Wave a bunch of dollars under the collective noses of those in charge and the world is your shellfish...
You did get feeling streetmap & various other mapping sites got left behind as mapping started to include more added value features
Lack of (free for small amount of use API (AFAIK), if there was one it was not well publicised) a major feature IMHO, that was available with google (& MS and Yahoo maps too at that time). With a free API, devs more likely to play around with the tools & more likely to use that tool in webpages.
Google API was particularly js friendly so allowed people to do impressive looking maps stuff on their sites very quickly & easily, again increasing the visibility of google maps to detriment of streetmap & others.
Ironically, before it died I had done lots of web site mapping functionality using yahoo maps (before it was canned) APIs (as no key, limitless use) however several customers expressly asked for google maps instead as (even back then in the relatively early days) it offered a far smoother / pleasing UI which was what people wanted for their idea of what a "professional" mapping service was like.
Streetmap looked very clunky compared to Google and MS maps - as the article implied, it lacked the "slippy" maps look that users seem to appreciate.
Had streetmap being obviously "Best of Breed" then it could have thrived (its UK maps better than Google maps), but online mapping is about so much more than just how accurate / clear your map is, and Streetmap fell way short on the added value side
The API side is what really killed Streetmap as a viable monetisation strategy. Their big problem was a poor quality service for end users BUT end users were primarily exposed to their product on 3rd party commercial sites. Sites that cant have been pleased to pay more for something that made their sites look worse than Google maps.
Streetmaps planned income didnt depend on incidental search portal visibility and its hard to believe that would have driven business to them given the limited consumer appeal of their product. Any business searching for a mapping service to embed would have seen them, along with their competition. Very hard to claim damage and be taken seriously if you aren't actually competing for the same thing.
Streetmap's real problems were that it had to charge because it was paying a hefty chunk of money to the OS in licensing fees, had no other source of income itself and clearly didn't have the resources to go out and add features like "Street View".
There are few companies anywhere that would be able to compete indefinitely with a Google-scale business prepared to give their product away and with the means to cross-promote their offering through a range of other "free" services.
I'm in two minds about whether that's a problem that needs a remedy, but if it did, it's a policy issue rather than one that judges should be deciding.
> I'm in two minds about whether that's a problem that needs a remedy, but if it did, it's a policy issue rather than one that judges should be deciding.
All the judges were deciding was what the current law actually means in this case. They weren't deciding a policy, just implementing an existing one.
I think Streetmap brought the wrong case in the wrong courts. Instead of seeking some sort of protection or equal treatment, they asked for damages. Damages for an inferior product, that wouldn't generate significant income from the purportedly lost views anyway.
As a niche player in a global market, where the internet age expects global availability they weren't even offering a similar product. We protect competition, we don't stop innovation because one side can't or won't compete.
The decision to exclude a whole category of damages is a bit more than "just implementing the existing one." I'd say it does in fact change policy since it changed the prevailing interpretation at the time the policy was implemented.
> Streetmap's real problems were that it had to charge because it was paying a hefty chunk of money to the OS in licensing fees
And there, sir, is exactly where the problem is.
Here in Europe traditionally we've been paying over and over again for the same things (maps, weather, road information, various bits of scientific data, etc., etc.) when in the US they would just dump the things on a web server and we're all welcome to help ourselves.
This has created a fabulous amount of business (offering real solutions, I might add) in the States, while we were effectively being boycotted here by our own governments.
Since I haven't used the API's I won't dispute your characterization of them.
But even as 'Merkin, I have to say this decision looks corrupt from top to bottom. Initially I was going to object that "appreciable" was a reasonable standard. But after seeing that Streetmap (which I've never heard of before today) had evidence of exactly the sorts of losses I would qualify as "appreciable" but the judge excluded them because they weren't direct, that objection pretty much falls away.
I hope there's some way for this case to be reviewed, and a solid Biatch Slap delivered to the culpable judge.
You are quite correct in your comment that the move to a test of "appreciable" harm is long overdue. The simple "harm" test was far too low, and allowed for rent-seeking behaviour (though it was rarely sought). However, the judge has made a change to the law which he cannot effectively do. The doctrine of precedent applied by by the court system in the UK* means that he has made a decision in the lowest court. There will now be millions of pounds spent** going to the Court of Appeal, and then probably the Supreme Court, at which time the game stops, (the Supreme Court is, well, supreme - there are no appeals after that***), and their decision is the one that that becomes clear law. In some cases, the High Court judge will be criticised by one or both higher courts in their judgments.
History tends to show that judges who show willingness to interpret law are the ones that become Appeal Court judges later in life, so his may not**** be corrupt, but just a judge with ambitions taking the next step to get noticed.
* This is not a devolved issue, and so it is likely to apply across all parts of the UK.
** Assuming StreetMap has the money to do so.
*** Unless one of the players thinks they can get the European Court of Justice involved, but that's a whole different issue.
**** In fact, it probably isn't.
Streetmap forgets who it's customers are though. The average person looking for how to get from A to B just wants a mapping service that provides a pretty picture of the route and some directions - Streetmap does not provide this, and Google are indeed correct - the reason I stopped using Streetmaps was because Google Maps was easy to move around and Streetmaps required me to press an arrow in the direction I want to go, and then wait for the entire thing to reload. Now - given a choice between looking at a Streetmap of an unfamiliar location via Streetmaps or dropping in to Streetview on Google Maps so I can actually see the street and mentally remember buildings and other "stand out" markers, so when I get to the location I know where I am based on the things I can see around me, I know what service I'll be using. If Streetmaps want to compete - they should compete, not stay stuck in the old days (though I note that their map is now draggable, that's a plus, but the layout is still very 2001 - the front page doesn't even fill the screen, it sits at the left hand side and fills about 58% of the screen and all the rest on the right is just empty space)
"the reason I stopped using Streetmaps was because Google Maps was easy to move around and Streetmaps required me to press an arrow in the direction I want to go"
I find this statement surprising as I can drag Streetmap maps round in much the same way as Google maps. The big advantage of Streetmap is that they're actually full-featured OS maps. Ironically Google maps (as opposed to the overlaid aerial photos are just streemaps.
"The big advantage of Streetmap is that they're actually full-featured OS maps."
And that makes what difference to the 90% of people that don't hike / greenlane / ramble / horseride?
route from here to there is the main use of map apps, same as car GPS doesn't need tell you the history of everything on the road you are travelling
you're right, in general, but it's not fair to advocate streetmap to use features competitive to google (or copy them). I mean, you quote how great it it to use google streets, to (mentally) tag landmarks around the location. Yeah, it's great, but how realistic it is that streetmap, a sizeable company, could embark on a street driving mission to compete with google streets? There are starups, there are established players, and there are googles, and I'm talking the amount of money each can "throw" to get the edge over the competition.
Your argument seems to be that no-one should do any innovation (such as StreetView) if no-one else can afford it. This seems to be a very strange view of the world, akin to "no-one should have a more expensive house than I can afford". Money allows more choices to do things.
Something that Google could have done is offering links to multiple services. They actually do that when you look up stock quotes like https://www.google.com/search?q=amzn; you get a box showing the data, but if you want more detail, you need to click on one of the small links below, choosing between Google Finance, Yahoo Finance and MSN Money.
It's interesting that they do that for stock market data but not for maps. I'd be curious to know why. Maybe it's because Yahoo Finance has more users than Google Finance, while Google Maps was probably #1 by an overwhelming margin for a long time.
Streetmap suffered the same effect from Google's entry into mapping that High Street shops did from the big supermarkets. As UK governments have allowed the big supermarket chains to decimate the High Street, it would seem to be illogical for Streetmap to be given special protection from a competitor offering a cheaper service while not protecting High Street shops.
The only part of the complaint that would seem to be at all reasonable is that Google put its own mapping service above Streetmap in its advertising results. Google making its API free may well have killed Streetmap's income - however competitors are allowed to undercut one another (see loss leaders in stores for a non-digital example).
That misses the blatantly obvious: Google maps was an order of magnitude 'better' than Streetmaps woeful offering even while still in beta and not automagically appearing on searches. Better UI, better geographical coverage, more user friendly features.
At some point you have to stop protecting businesses that make no credible attempt to compete on service quality.
For several years I stubbornly refused to use Google Maps, sticking with Multimap (I didn't like StreetMap even though I routinely use OS maps for various things - there is a time and a place for the complexity of OS maps). However, after a couple of situations where locations were given to me via Google Maps, I realised that, yes, they were worlds better than any other offering for the purposes that they were being used for. The combination of aerial overlays and StreetView made getting to some difficult locations very easy. After that I was a convert because of it was better for the job.
Alternatively the court could have gone Streetmap's way, and anyone who just falls behind could complain "market dominance by X".
Perhaps Google should be forced to link to competing map services.
Perhaps Tesco site should provide links to Asda, Waitress to Lidl. Conservatives.com to Momentum, etc.
Alternatively things could be sensible. Google is not a monopoly mapping provider, or advertising provider, or search provider: but they're close to being all three, so some constraints or at least monitoring required, to the same extent that is done in other industries offline. Companies who don't react to supply and demand, changing circumstances should not, however, be allowed to cry at some indeterminate date in the future if they lose business today. They should, however, be able to seek redress today if the competition breaks the rules today.
Use Google for anything and your data (Oh look he/she wants to go to Alton Towers. Lets give that information to 1,000,000 advertisers...) get slurped.
So you went to Alton Towers? How about DisneyLand Japan for your next vacation?
I know what mine is and it is NOT google.
YMMV (And probably will).
The dominance of the US corps in this space, mean the only sane business plan for any start up is to build your business with the express intention of getting bought by one of the US corps.
The likes of Google dominate and possess so much spending power that they can crush any nascent business if they choose to. You cannot start anything that is vaguely in their arena and 'take them on'. You have to play ball and when they come calling, you smile and bend over, grab your money and run.
It is a sad situation and a total failure by UK plc. The UK politicians are as much to blame as anyone else. Their double speak and hypocrisy is breathtaking.
I just looked at streetmap.co.uk for the very first time.
I see what you mean about the amount of screen space taken up by adverts, and the entire interface, layout & colour scheme looks like it came from the 90s! I had this horrible flashback to Win95 and the early days of the web, as seen through Netscape Navigator and searching with AltaVista.
It's not limited to the UK. In fact, the same thing applies within the US. If you are a start up you can't hope to survive if Google spies your business. There was a time this was also true for MS; not sure it still is. This is why anti-trust laws were established in the first place.
I'm unconvinced this is a headline verdict.
I suspect this could be appealed all the way to Europe based on the important precident and the judge potentially overreaching.
Is suspect this is more of a case of pants company hires pants lawyer.
The fact that the lawyer is whining about a 'new law' is disingenuous at best.
So their complaint is that for five years Google sent them a lot of traffic, and then Google changed and now still sends them a lot of traffic - but less. I see. And how much are they compensating Google for this traffic? Nothing? And it's the key driver of their profits? It would seem that people will sue over giving them less than you used to, for free. Odd.
Google wanted to add maps to their search because search implies both mental and physical location. They approached TomTom and Garmin, but couldn't get a deal that included unlimited redistribution. So they bough Keyhole (TomTom and Garmin's key data source), a number of other firms, and set their engineers to plumbing and munging the available public data. The result, Google Maps, was poor at first. Then they hired people to drive down every street with a GPS, imaging and mapping enabled car. They honed their product until it was simply the most relevant. And since it is the most relevant it deserves the premium default map result in Google Search which is all about returning the most relevant results.
> I just typed 'map' into Google UK - the first three entries were Google Maps (UK), Google Maps (US) and then Streetmap
I just repeated the experiment in a number of European countries (VPN) and the results are comparable: Google Maps, Google Maps, National Business X, Bing Maps, National Business Y, Here Maps, National Business Z, and so on page after page.
The elephant in the room? That would be the notable absence of Google Maps' two most formidable competitors: OpenStreetMap¹ and Mapbox.
¹ Originally a British initiative, btw... one thing the World has to thank the post-war Ordnance Survey for.
> but I've never heard of Mapbox.
I hadn't either until recently, when I noticed they had grabbed much of the top talent in the FOSS mapping arena. They do complex mapping solutions for third parties (and their product is miles ahead of Google Maps technologically speaking). If you have visited the websites of any major news site in the US or UK chances are you have come across their maps.
"Formidable" in this context would mean that they pose a credible and significant threat to Google Maps in at least some market segments.
Lots of focus on how Streetmap got left behind in the features race, but no suggestions as to how they would be able to keep up. They are trying to build a profitable mapping business while Google is happy to piss away enormous amounts of money to keep eyeballs on its adverts.
So another business annihilated by a loss-leader product. Hoooray!
Before the Googlisation of everything on the internet, I used to absolutely love Streetmap. We once met them to discuss business opportunities and I thought - wow, I wish I'd done this. Such a useful, innovative service with so much potential. So it is a sad day to see that the likes of Google can allegedly use the courts to quash small pioneering startups.
We're meant to be championing small businesses and helping them to grow into new giants. But it seems all that ever happens is ideas are allegedly "copied" and built upon much faster by big businesses with deeper pockets who simply smother innovative startups; the same startups who truly should be recognised for having the dream and turning it in to reality. But don't worry guys, some of us still believe you pioneered online maps, not google. But still, a sad day indeed.
However,.....the other side of the argument which makes me confused about all this...
In my humble opinion, the Streetmap website is terribly old fashioned, not very useful or user-friendly, lacks useful add-on tools, is covered in tacky adverts and simply looks like it stopped innovating somewhere back in the 1990's.
One might argue that the cost of lawyers might have been better spent on more and better development and a lot of PR to bigup their game and get noticed. Ok, Google might have still ploughed on through, but there is a good chance they or someone else would have spotted the innovations by the streetmap crew and made them a handsome offer, either as a buyout or pouring big money in to let it compete in the grown-ups game.
The streetmap team could now be heading up VirginMaps (worth £100 billion and a serious contender), or sat on a 100 foot yacht soaking up the sun. But it seems to me the path they freely chose to take was to let cobwebs grow over the website, cry in to their beers and ensure that lawyers and barristers yet again are they only ones who always win - that list used to incude the tax man, but we all know that's no longer true ;-)
...but loss leaders are not in themselves illegal nor do they necessarily indicate an illegal abuse of market position or competition law.
They will ultimately benefit the competitor with the deeper pockets, which generally means that the smaller guys are hosed if the big boys move in on their territory.
Note that I am not saying that this is a good thing......
I used Google Maps for just about everything up until M$ stopped supporting XP. Now I can only use Google Maps "Lite" (whatever that means), which is a dumbed down subset of the original, and does not allow the user to drag the route to another road to avoid (say) a known bottleneck. I used to do this to plan my delivery routes before setting off, but now I have to add the waypoints manually in the left hand upper panel, using cut and paste to move the subsequent waypoints down the list in order to make room for the new one. I, and thousands of others, have complained voluably about this change, but Google are arrogantly ignoring customers' problems by insisting that I upgrade to at least Win7 ( and how much longer before they insist on Win8, Win10, etc., etc.?). I have no intention of moving on from XP64Pro, if it ain't broke, don't fix it!
Streetview has been changed for the worse, too; now, wherever you go, it appears to be on a 90 degree corner, the kerb is no longer a straight line across the screen, it is bent out of all recognition.
Come on, Google, please listen to your users, dump this "Lite" rubbish and reinstate the old, full function GM, and please, fix Streetview so the location one is viewing is recognisable.
Come on, Google, please listen to your users, dump this "Lite" rubbish and reinstate the old, full function GM
On my box, I can simply click the lightning symbol at the bottom to switch to the full-fat version. Have you tried that?
Lite mode is much quicker - but doesn't give me lat/long for points on the map...
The market dominance of Google means it's time to regulate. It's a big animal and this needs to be done at European level. The reference to the EU Competition Commissioner gives the right route. Just like the telco incumbents and the law passed to regulate from which we have openreach split off and a competitive field in telecoms / broadband, the same move needs to happen to Google. (Facebook, Apple too). El Reg, start a campaign. Go for the MPs who quizzed Google over its tax and give them this regulation prize to aim for.
I kind of agree on this one, if Google comes up with a good feature that people like should be stopped from using it because it is to the detriment of other competitors? That would mean only small companies are allowed to come up with innovation that steals market share which would obviously be a nonsense situation and in itself anti-competitive to larger companies and make the market leader unable to defend itself.
Like many here I used to use it. It was clunky, but was a way to look at the OS data. I'm one of the few who sees value in these maps.
Even after Google maps appeared, I put up with the shit interface for a while but eventually ended up with the whole OS dataset on my phone and tablet, via viewranger, and my days of visiting shitty streetmap ended. They had their chance but other people got my OS map business.
Might have been helpful to include a link to the StreetMap site in question in the original article. I suspect [especially as the company was erroneously referred to as "streetmap.eu"] I wasn't the only one to think this story was about Google vs. OpenStreetMap.
I'd never heard of StreetMap [http://www.streetmap.co.uk] before and, looking at their site, I think they've a damned cheek trying to pass that mess of as something that would have been a viable alternative to Google Maps, if only big bad Google had played fair.
OpenStreetMap [http://www.openstreetmap.org] on the other hand do provide a very good OSS-ish alternative to Google maps, competing with Google's ginormous cash advantage by innovatively channelling a "crowd-sourcing" business model, to produce and update their maps. And the Dutch/Russian http://maps.me company produces some very good mobile mapping/GPS apps based on OpenStreetMap data.
So, I think the lesson to take away from this is that, whilst difficult, it is possible to compete strongly with Google by using a bit of ingenuity and providing a quality alternative. Sticking up an ad-infested, inferior site that looks like it was last updated in the 1990s, and then crying into your beer because Google won't throw you the crumbs from their table isn't such a viable strategy.
G Maps ate their lunch because they simply delivered a better product.
Simple yet powerful interface. Smart search, knows where you are, finds businesses by name or category, and addresses, plus directions with a fast gui.
Streetmap made the same mistake many new tech ventures make, they decided to focus on milking their biggest whales, a few businesses that could afford a high tariff, over giving away a good product and generating revenue off the traffic and data mining.
Genuine OS maps, and elevation data. Seems to be impossible to find the elevation data now, unless I'm confusing that with multimaps, which now appears to be Bing.
It doesn't support a scroll wheel - even openstreetmap supports that. It's true that for very small streets google maps is a bit lacking, but that's rarely needed, even on foot - which isn't possible, because there's no app for openstreetmap.
Compare that to Google Maps, where it's possible to navigate an unfamiliar foreign city, and there's no competition.
I'm searching for a physical location - a local coffee shop - on Google.
Google provide me with their address (physical and/or website) but also - evilly - the put up a map with the location of the place highlighted. And no ordinary map, but one which they built and funded themselves (the bastards). That might appear pretty useful to me, the seeker of coffee shops, but actually it isn't because... reasons.
So, if they see the light, what should Google be doing instead? Not including a map, but putting in a link to Streetmap instead? That doesn't sound very competitive-market-friendly. How about a huge block of links, in random order, to all possible providers of maps in that part of the world? It would be no use to Google's users, but it would keep their competitors happy.
I have no doubt that Google do all manner of unspeakable things, and I'm glad people are calling them out on them, but it's not enough to say "this is wrong", you have to add "this would be better". And it has to actually *be* better too.
To me it is reasonably obvious, Google/search and it's various embellishmentsu such as maps, is to many people their start screen into the web; just as the Windows desktop and it's bundled app's was the start screen to many PC users. So in the past through the various anti-trust cases MS were forced to recognise the existence of third-party browsers and search. Hence why we got the "Browser Choice" update to XP and why in IE you could change the default preferences with respect to search provider, reader/viewers etc.
I think we are getting to a similar place with Google/search. So yes Google can provide their own maps (and other embellishments), but they need to provide the means so that if I want to use Bing, Streetmap, Apple etc. for my geographic search results I can. Yes I doubt many will actually change the default setting, but I see Google might benefit from providing it.
"Google can provide their own maps (and other embellishments), but they need to provide the means so that if I want to use Bing, Streetmap, Apple etc. for my geographic search results I can."
You can now. By *going* to Bing, Streetmap, Apple etc. Nobody's stopping you, least of all Google.
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