Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Map communities and "openness"

For those of you who don't know, Google's MapMaker is a recently released OpenStreetMap-style "Wiki Map" for Google Maps that lets one edit "maps in the countries of Cyprus, Iceland, Pakistan, Vietnam and the Caribbean nations of: Antigua & Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Grenada, Jamaica, Netherlands Antilles, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Trinidad & Tobago"

I discovered MapMaker in a
James Fee RSS post last night. Fee's post included worthwhile and insightful links from the open source map content community, some more "maturely presented" than others (the latter link may not be suitable for corporate network browsing), but all reinforcing the point that the "open community" isn't particularly disposed to give away value to entities like Google or Microsoft or TomTom/TeleAtlas or Nokia/NAVTEQ without some form of "open goodness" given back in return. Of course, I'm not sure if this means "free" (as in beer) map content or not, but it certainly means a whole lot less encumbered with contractual verbotens than these entities are accustomed to insisting on.

It’s all fine and dandy to say that these OpenStreetMap folks have no business model in sight, but the fact remains that the “open” meme and the associated communities that rally behind that flag are very influential and have succeeded in the past in turning a significant volume of services, software and content into commodities (notably “digital” ones that are difficult-to-impossible to lock down behind a tollgate). The global economic/societal upside of this trend is that it allows new forms of businesses and applications to flourish on top of these more accessible and open (and yes, lower cost) commodity building blocks (many, many enterprises are taking advantage of the Linux stack for example), but the downside is that local business/corporate dislocations can and do occur. Some die. Some adapt (for example the IBM of today little resembles the IBM of 15 years ago).

I think it was the economist
Joseph Schumpeter who deemed this process "creative destruction", which I'd further note most often tends to be associated with the dynamics of capitalism...

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