Duopoly in Digital Mapping: Can Web3 Disrupt the Dominance of Big Tech?
Web3 has emerged as an alternative to the dominance of Big Tech in various technology sectors, yet it faces a formidable challenge in breaking the duopoly held by Google Maps and Apple Maps in the digital mapping market. According to a report by Gitnux, this duopoly persists due to the strong market share and substantial resources of Google and Apple, enabling them to develop features like Google Street View to a degree that few others can match.
The dominance of these tech giants has compelled other Big Tech companies, such as Microsoft, Meta (formerly Facebook), and Amazon, to collaborate in forming the Overture Maps Foundation. Their goal is to challenge the supremacy of Google and Apple in the digital mapping space. In a landscape where even major players struggle to gain a foothold, can Web3 offer a pathway to greater competition and innovation in digital mapping?
Big Tech's Impact on Innovators
Big Tech's control of the digital mapping market has driven up costs for innovators. For instance, both Google and Apple Maps do not grant access to their underlying data. Developers using Google Maps pay fees via the Google Maps API for each thousand searches made using Google Maps. Apple charges developers for integrating MapKit JS into their websites and applications.
Furthermore, the street view features of these maps are often outdated, particularly in remote areas away from urban centers. While there's room for improvement, very few firms possess the resources to rival tech giants like Google and Apple. Consequently, both companies have limited incentive to enhance the quality of their services in these remote regions. This adds an additional financial burden to startups, particularly when resources are limited in the early stages of business development. While the Overture Maps Foundation aims to offer developers a more cost-effective alternative, it still only provides access to underlying data. There is a pressing need for greater decentralization in the digital mapping market to further reduce costs for developers and innovators.
The Role of Web3
Web3, with its core principles of decentralization and empowering end users, offers a foundation for challenging Big Tech's dominance in digital mapping. Several companies have already initiated efforts to build decentralized mapping networks based on blockchain technology. Such systems enable end users to benefit directly from their data contributions and become active contributors to a global mapping network.
Rather than relying on the extensive and costly resources of Big Tech firms, Web3 projects can harness near-real-time user data collected from dashcams, drones, and other video devices worldwide. Crowdsourcing user-generated imagery offers numerous advantages, including reduced overhead costs, as companies no longer need to employ and equip a substantial workforce to capture imagery across vast distances.
Web3 can also empower users by allowing them to derive value from their own data. The vast amount of user data accumulated over time has been a driving force behind Big Tech's dominance in the digital mapping arena. To counter this, Web3 mapping platforms can incentivize individuals interested in Web3 or community-driven mapping platforms to contribute their data and imagery to support the project—truly embodying the principles of decentralization that underpin the Web3 movement.
The Future of Digital Mapping
The question is not whether Web3 has the potential to challenge the dominance of Apple and Google in the digital mapping market; rather, it's about how to harness that potential effectively. The choice lies between maintaining the status quo, allowing Big Tech to continue its dominance, or adopting an innovative approach based on blockchain technology. Given the outlined benefits of a Web3 mapping platform for entrepreneurship, competition, and user empowerment, the choice becomes clear.