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Op-ed: Duopoly in digital mapping

by Sophie Smith

Web3: Challenging Big Tech Dominance in the Digital Mapping Market

The digital mapping market has long been dominated by Big Tech firms, with Google Maps and Apple Maps holding a duopoly over the industry. However, with the rise of Web3, there is now an opportunity to challenge this dominance and bring greater competition and innovation to the market.

According to a report by Gitnux, the market dominance of Google and Apple is maintained by their strong market share and significant resources. Both companies have developed features like Google Street View to such an extent that other projects struggle to compete. This dominance has forced other Big Tech companies, including Microsoft, Meta, and Amazon, to come together and form the Overture Maps Foundation, aimed at challenging the duopoly.

The dominance of Google and Apple has deprived innovators of access to their underlying data, driving up costs for startups. For example, app developers have to pay fees to Google through the Google Maps API, while Apple charges for the use of MapKit JS. Additionally, the street view features on these maps tend to be outdated, particularly in more remote areas. This lack of competition and innovation adds another layer of cost to the startup process, limiting resources for entrepreneurs.

Furthermore, Google and Apple’s dominance in the smartphone market further strengthens their duopoly in the digital mapping space. By providing their branded mapping services as the default option for smartphone users, these companies ensure their continued dominance.

Another concerning aspect is Big Tech’s capture of data gathered by smaller companies’ user contributions. When Google acquired Waze for $1.1 billion in 2013, it integrated Waze features with Google Maps, benefiting Google but leaving the question of what the Waze community gained in return. This is where Web3 has the potential to provide solutions and reward users for their crowdsourced data.

Web3’s decentralization and empowerment of end users provide the basis to challenge Big Tech dominance in digital mapping. Several firms have already started building decentralized mapping networks based on blockchain technology. These systems allow users to benefit from their data and contribute to a global network. By crowdsourcing user-generated imagery, overhead costs can be reduced, as firms no longer need to deploy their own staff to capture imagery.

Web3 also incentivizes users to contribute their data and imagery to help grow the platform, allowing them to benefit directly. This shift from Big Tech’s control over user data to user empowerment contributes to the core principles of Web3.

The question now is how to utilize the potential of Web3 to challenge the dominance of Google and Apple in the digital mapping market. The choice is clear: continue with the status quo and allow Big Tech to dominate, or adopt a new, innovative approach utilizing blockchain technology. The benefits of a Web3 mapping platform, such as entrepreneurship, competition, and user empowerment, make the choice evident.

In conclusion, Web3 has the potential to disrupt the duopoly of Google and Apple in the digital mapping market, bringing greater competition and innovation. By leveraging decentralization, near real-time user data, and user empowerment, Web3 mapping platforms can provide a cheaper alternative to startups and allow users to benefit directly from their data contributions. It is time to challenge the dominance of Big Tech and embrace the potential of Web3 in the digital mapping market.

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