Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Google My Maps

The future of online mapping - colored markers

It has been an exciting couple of years for online map developers, what with the incredible development of Leaflet.js, the emergence of great narative mapping platforms, such as Esri Story Maps and the recent release of Mapbox GL and Mapbox Studio.

The emergence of so many great mapping platforms has challenged Google's once almost monopolistic position in online map development. In fact these days it is becoming increasingly rare to actually see a great online map which was developed with the Google Maps API. Nearly all the great, cutting edge maps that I see these days are developed on other platforms.

I've actually been waiting two years to see how Google would respond to this dwindling market position in map development. The answer has finally arrived:

Google has renamed Google Maps Engine Lite - My Maps!

All joking aside, this is probably a sensible move by Google. Google seem to have made the decision to let the Google Maps JavaScript API slowly die from neglect. Their energies have instead gone into developing mapping for mobile platforms and trying to monetize Google Maps through Google Maps Engine.

Google Maps Engine Lite was obviously meant to be a free entry level mapping platform that might hook some users into upgrading to Google Maps Engine. The problem is Google Maps Engine Lite is very basic and creates fairly ugly maps. I'm sure a lot of potential customers for Google Maps Engine (which is itself a very good and powerful mapping platform)  looked at Google Maps Engine Lite and thought 'Why would I pay for this?'

It therefore makes sense for Google to disassociate Google Maps Engine Lite from Google Maps Engine and rebrand it as My Maps. My Maps is an effective entry level, tool for non-developers to quickly create simple maps. It really isn't a stepping-stone to Google Maps Engine.

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