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Even Big Huge Massive Companies Make Mistakes

In this month’s newsletter, I’ve done my best to explain the effects of Google’s recent move to encrypt search queries made by users logged in to their Google accounts. Yes, I speculated a bit on their reasons, but the fact is I don’t know for sure what drove that decision. Maybe it really was a sincere care for user privacy—you know, per their “Don’t be evil” motto. Or, maybe not. Call my cynical, but I just don’t think of Google as a “we really do care about you” kind of company. But it’s also possible that the decision was just not that carefully considered, and that the ire stoked among analytics buffs was a surprise. Even big companies have blind spots, you know.

A case in point that I jotted down but didn’t really have a place in the article has to do with the Google Maps API. Last Spring, Google announced that it would start charging developers to use it. Then back in November, they announced over the same blog that they’d wait until 2012 to start charging so that developers could plan for it—perhaps giving them some time to save up. After all, it didn’t take long for some of the people who run websites with enough traffic to fall within the pricing parameters (Google only cared about the sites that got more than 25,000 sessions per day) to realize that they didn’t make enough money from their sites to afford Google’s prices! So, many of those sites started looking for alternatives. One of the big ones that has gotten some coverage as a result is OpenStreetMap, an international not-for-profit initiative to create and provide free geographical data to anyone (that’s lifted pretty much verbatim from their website). MapQuest, one of OpenStreetMap’s sources of funding, savvily realized this was a great time to get a bit more public with their involvement by releasing a service called MapQuest Open, which is essentially their branded version of OpenStreetMap. And Microsoft, who always prefer to arrive second or third to a party, released an OpenStreetMap layer to Bing. With all of these new options available, as well as Mapstraction, a javascript library created to help developers easily swap out map APIs without trashing the rest of the code they’ve written, one can’t help but conclude that Google’s pricing scheme was a misstep. Or maybe they wanted to price most of their potential customers out. They’re certainly profitable enough for that kind of move, or even a big mistake, so maybe it doesn’t matter in the long run. The point is that they’re not infallible.

There are people in there, just like everywhere else.

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