Innovation in Assembly…. Google Maps

Google Maps is a web mapping service provided by tech giant Google, it provides many map-based services, including the Google Maps website and many of the our day-to-day websites and applications, over 350,00 infact. Google offers the service, called an API (application programming interface) to developers to use free of charge as long as its not for commercial use. 

Firstly what is an API, according to Wikipedia:  its a particular set of rules and specifications that a software program can follow to access and make use of the services and resources provided by another particular software program that implements that API. Secondly why would Google hand the keys over to there software to complete strangers? To answer that question its important to understand one of the key patterns of Web 2.0 according to O’Reilly, who states that “Innovation is in Assembly”, in laymen’s terms this means when commodity components are abundant, you can create value simply by assembling them in novel or effective ways… Like online maps. This approach to snap on services allowing  companies the ability to beat there competition by  harnessing and integrating services provided by others. Google as you would expect is making money on this service just like there world renowned search engine. They do this in two main ways:

  1. Sell ad space on the service. This is done in two different ways: 1) using Google’s acclaimed AdSense engine that places advertising that is related to the topic the user has searched for whether that is in a search engine or a geographical location. Option 2) was introduced in 2010 and allows companies to pay Google to have their brand logos inserted into the map as part of the icons. 
  2. The second way Google Maps makes money is buying selling the service  to enterprises who pay for the rights to use the Google Maps API behind protected logins and intranets (which is currently against the free terms of service).

But its clear that Google Maps didn’t just succeed just because it was making the Californian based company money, the application successful met some of the best practices in application statergy, as outlined by Watson (2011):

  1. Google offered API’s for its service
  2. Google Maps has exceptional design by remixability (flexibility), this was actually stumbled upon my Google who found that there map service that was being created at the time was being hacked and in-fact made into a mashup. Google changed their business model… and the rest is history i guess.
  3. Google included developer support (tutorials), and allowed for analytics of there map service, this ensured that they followed the API best practices theory for uptake.
  4. Google Maps used/uses already existing standards meaning devlopers could use the tool without learning a new coding language.
  5. Google managed to build its business model (AdSense) into the API.
  6. Google is Google Maps biggest customer – be your own customer

As mentioned at the start of the blog, Google Maps API is used around the world in hundreds of thousands of applications and websites, you would almost use it everyday, and thats what makes API’s and Google’s one in particular so usable is it flexibility.

Further Reading:

Google Maps Mashups

How Google Makes Money

Googles Business Philosophy

O’Reilly – Web 2.0