Here's an interesting Forbes take on how Google Maps is also a social network but not on the traditional sense that Facebook, Twitter, or even Google+ is. I see this taking place in a manner that should be very interesting in how companies, not just Google, interacts with its users.
See, with more and more users on the move and the increasing in mobile consumption and computing, the traditional sense and take on maps has changed as is evident in how Google is positioning its maps app at Google I/O.
Google and others like Facebook (maybe it'll come out with its own maps) will overlay more and more information based on the user preferences - places they've checked in, places where their friends/families have been to, recommendations based on user information, and, of course, ads.
Of course, in the Forbes post, it made references to how Google has been forcing Google+ on users which its execs deny. Of course, Google has been integrating Google+ with its services in an attempt to drum up numbers and compete publicly with Facebook and Twitter in terms of raw numbers.
However, with Maps, because it has the best mapping service as perceived by most users, Google has never had to force anyone to use it. And by overlaying social features, ads, and other services on top of it, it has creating a social interaction in ways that no other social networks can with its linear timelines and gimmicks to keep users engaged.
With maps, we want to stay engaged when we open up the app on our iPhones, Android devices, or tablets.
And here may be where the central strategy in devices like Google Glass fits in. And to a larger extent, other wearable devices that will soon come on the market.
For Android users, because Google has control over the platform, you can always expect Android to receive the best and latest quickly. However, that is not to say that iOS users won't. Google has realized just how important iPhone users are given their likelihood to be monetized.
I'm sure Apple has also noticed - it many not have its own social network but with its own Maps app, it many not have to once it adds social features to it. Right now, Yelp is featured prominently but look for other social data to appear in the future.
This leaves Facebook and Twitter without maps services of its own. Facebook was rumored to try to buy Waze, a socially engaging maps with data contributed by users, but that likely isn't going to work out. It's like Facebook will be forced to work with Microsoft's own mapping services going forward.
For iOS users, this should be a whole new frontier for both Apple and users. Advertising is not something that Apple is particularly good at or have experience with. It's unlike it will play a prominent part in any social maps engagement from Apple.
The first step for Apple will probably involve a more robust mobile payment system beyond what Passbook currently offers. With what it has learned from Yelp integration and a willingness to integrate social networks more deeply with within iOS, the Mapps app will see more integration beyond Yelp reviews.
For instance, without its own maps service, Facebook could work with Apple on checkins (I just Foursquare instead of Facebook) and give users the benefits of knowing where family/friends have been there or not and what they may have said about it.
It's also likely that deals can pop up when a user search for a particular location. For instance, supposedly I look for pizza. It'll find not only the nearest pizza parlor but also which ones currently offer a special deal.
As an avid user of Groupon and Living Social, I would not mind see a map overlay of where the deals that interest me are in my city. The linear format right now in these deals apps just aren't engaging at all.
To be sure, we'll see Apple and Google move in this direction to be sure. However, Apple will be more cautious than Google will given Google's vast amount of information about users and its willingness to throw things out there and see what works.
In this past year, we saw Apple's first attempt going at it alone as the map app provider with Yelp integration. Melted buildings in flyovers aside, Apple has improved its maps greatly even with some claiming Apple has better accuracy than Google. Year two could see one or two other social services added to the mix - be it a third party service or even one of its own.
It would be nice to see Apple allow users to update and provide information in the way that Waze engages its users. One service I particularly like is Google allowing users to post pictures to contribute to Streetview.
At the end of the day, Apple will do Maps the Apple way. It'll be simple with some approved social engagement. It'll only do things that it sees that could add value to users and help it sell iOS devices.
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