Google appears to be running up the score in its great digital mapping contest against Apple. On Wednesday, Google unveiled a whole separate website, “More Than A Map,” designed to promote the myriad uses of Google Maps in apps and other projects created by independent software developers around the world.
Specifically, the “More Than A Map Website,” is designed to show off examples of the best uses outside developers have made of the Google Maps application programming interface (API), a collection of publicly accessible code maintained by Google that allows the developers to link up with and rely on data from Google’s world maps.
But the Google Maps API has been around for the past seven years, so why would Google pick now to unveil a whole new website dedicated expressly to it, just weeks after Apple kicked Google Maps off the iPhone and iPad and replaced it with its own, buggy Apple Maps, only for Apple CEO Tim Cook to apologize to users for the poor quality of Apple Maps and again refer users to the Google Maps website?
A Google spokesperson declined to answer when asked about the timing with regard to Apple’s map troubles.
“This project was launched to showcase the coolest features of the Maps API and developers around the world who have made a big impact on their local communities,” Google said in a statement provided to TPM.
Indeed, Google’s new “More Than A Map” website does offer visitors a look at several apps and uses of the Google Maps API. It includes demos of some products and the following short video documentary/ad featuring testimonial of six different startup companies that rely on the Google Maps API to power the geolocation features of their products:
Google’s “More Than A Map,” also has a section featuring individual video interviews with the companies’ founders explaining their products.
“For the next 6 weeks, we will blog about each of the developers’ stories,” Google’s spokesperson told TPM. “Stay tuned to the Developers Blog for that.”
There’s also a section on Google’s Geo-Developers website (a separate site specifically for active Google Maps API developers) that highlights “cool stuff that other developers have built.”
But it’s Google’s demos on “More Than A Map” that really seem to highlight the disparity between Google Maps and Apple Maps for Apple device users.
The company lists six demos showing various features of Google Maps — the base maps, satellite views, Street View, Google Places, built-in bicycle and public transit routing, data visualization — many of which just aren’t available on Apple Maps right now, period.
Here’s a screenshot of Google’s demo of cycling path routes in Stockholm, Sweden:
And here’s a screenshot of a Google Maps data visualization experiment showing flights coming in and out of London:
Finally, the new “More Than A Maps Website” acts as a rallying point for a new contest Google is holding using its separate Google Places API, the software code for the specific location entries of retail shops and other establishments that appear now with Zagat ratings and on Google Plus.
The contest, the “Google Places API Developer Challenge,” invites developers to use “civic” data Google has posted online from specific cities, municipalities and other organizations like NASA with which Google has partnered. The object is to use the civic data to create more useful apps to help local governments and communities. Submissions are due by October 31, and the winners get expenses-paid trips to Google’s developers’ conference “I/O” in 2013 (no small reward, as Google at its 2012 conference gave away tablets and the first exclusive opportunities to order its augmented reality “Google Glass” computerized glasses, among other perks).
Here’s a Google video promoting the “Google Places API Challenge”:
“Our goal with this first Challenge was to bring developers together to make improvements to their communities and local governments,” a Google spokesperson told TPM in a statement.
Meanwhile, Apple’s latest challenge seems to be an internal one: The company was reportedly recruiting its retail store employees to help provide feedback on problem areas found in Apple Maps so that Apple can improve the product.
All that said, one area where the “More Than A Map” website is conspicuously not forthcoming on is the Google Maps API’s controversial pricing structure: Google charges for heavy users of its maps data (those that load Google Maps over 25,000 times a day): Between $0.50 and $1.00 for every additional 1,000 map loads. That’s actually down from what Google was charging at the beginning of 2012: Up to $4 per 1,000 additional map loads. But Google altered course on that and lowered the prices after receiving feedback from developers.
Google’s decision to begin charging at all for its Google Maps API usage is suspected to be a contributing factor behind not only Apple’s defection from the platform, but that of Foursquare and Wikipedia for its mobile apps. These and other companies have recently turned to a free crowd-sourced alternative known as OpenStreetMap.
Correction: This article originally incorrectly listed the price of Google Maps API above 25,000 map loads as “between $0.50 and $1,000” and incorrectly put $1,000 for the number of additional map loads when it should have been 1,000. We apologize for the errors and have since corrected them in copy.