The independent cartographer’s future business options are looking a little shaky at present. There’s only one platform most of us use for visualizing addresses and researching locations, and it just happens to be attached to the world’s most popular search engine.
I am, of course, referring to Google Maps — a service which, due to its general-use popularity, seems to provide about nine out of every ten maps you see embedded around the web. There’s nothing terribly surprising about this, even when the restrictive nature of map-building with Google is taken into consideration — convenience, after all, is king. What is surprising is that no competitor has produced a similarly easy-to-use platform that also offers greater freedom. But things are changing.
A startup named MapBox, three years in the making, is out to corner the online cartographic marketplace. Its original breakthrough came in the shape of TileMill, an open source native mapping app. Now, however, MapBox has its own online platform — but can it snatch Google’s crown?