While I have been just as impressed as the next guy with the cool looking maps and mashup functionality of Google Earth and its competitors, I have always stubbornly insisted that the excitement would wear off these services once the demand for profitability was raised. In particular, once Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft decided that they couldn't just keep giving away these services anymore and started to alter them in order to make a profit, people would move on to the next internet fad. Importantly, I do not doubt the usefulness and attractiveness of these services, my problem with them is that they are free and that once you try to make a profit off of them people will not find them as useful or attractive. While most people thought I was crazy or at least way off my rocker (I am an academic so I am used to this), it appears that now others are starting to raise the profitability question along with me. Specifically, an article entitled Map Quest in the latest edition of Fast Company discusses these and other issues dealing with internet map services. While much of the article is admittedly highly positive about internet mapping services, it does focus on how the drive for profitability will impact these services. Some of the possible changes include subscription services, ad based maps, and communities or blog based mapping. Interestingly, when community oriented mapping is discussed the issue of control becomes important as advertisers who receive negative reviews or comments from community members may pull the plug on sponsorship. Overall, the article makes clear that the drive for profitability will alter the current status of these map services, with some functionality being lost, while new functions and services are gained. Of course the most important thing about the article is that for once maybe I wasn't completely wrong.
I'll be the first to admit that I am not an expert in the area of business plans or taking innovative ideas and turning them into profitable companies. However, I felt a surge of vindication today when reading my latest version of Fast Company and I came across the article Map Quest. Specifically, the article raises the question of how internet map services will change as they strive to become profitable. More after the jump.