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Will Changes in the Mapping World Affect Your Business?

Search Engine Land has reported a number of changes in the online mapping industry, including buyouts and the disappearance of some Google Maps products for enterprises. These changes aren’t going to affect the directions Siri gives you on the way to a meeting, but they will change the landscape of geospatial services available. So what’s new? Here’s a rundown.

No More Maps Engine

Most people have never heard of Maps Engine, but if you do any kind of mapping you have. Maps Engine was Google’s product for businesses that need to layer data on top of the free, well trusted Google Maps platform.

One snag: they’re pulling the plug.

Google has put up a notice that they’re discontinuing the service. This isn’t immediate—companies who use the program have until January 29, 2016—but if this is at all crucial to your business it’s a big deal. Google has given little info on the reason for the change, and has not offered a replacement.

A competitor has, however. CartoDB seized the opportunity to offer the same service that Maps Engine has, accepting nearly all of the same image file types (and a few more) as Engine did. The idea is that you can simply port your data over and keep the exact same custom mapping/geospatial layering functionality you had before.

I’ve covered in the past why Google Maps is the best mapping platform on the web. So why should you trust CartoDB? Well, for starters, they still use Google Maps. All they’re doing is replacing the functionality that allows you to layer data and images over top. The implication is that your markup won’t look much different, if at all.

They’re also trying to make it more accessible than Maps Engine was:

“The ease-of-use in the CartoDB Editor has quickly made it a favorite among university educators, data analysts, sales managers, and journalists. Maps are no longer just for developers!”

If the interface is as good as they claim, no one should have problems switching to CartoDB.

Maps Bought and Sold

The other changes in the mapping industry are acquisitions. Uber, the taxi-finding app, purchased deCarta, a former rival of Google Maps. The acquisition brings a lot of navigation functionality Uber’s way. Amost at the same time, Maponics acquired the main product of its competitor Urban Mapping (and the name). If your business does any kind of enterprise mapping, and particularly if you use neighborhood boundary data, this means that Maponics is now your go-to product.

Note that none of these changes affect the core product that most of us use, which is Google Maps. All the services that are closing or changing hands are products built on top of that mapping platform. That means that unless your business specifically works with one of the apps or products involved, you won’t notice a difference in your mapping experience.