With the Demise of Google Maps Engine, What Next For GME Users?

At the beginning of 2013 Google launched Google Maps Engine Lite, a simpler and easier to use version of their commercial Maps Engine, which was designed as a successor to Google’s My Maps feature. In essence, My Maps and GME were web based, simplified GIS tools, allowing a user to create maps with overlays of their own data. Call it GIS for people who don’t know about GIS if you will. Maybe GME never got the traction Google hoped for but they have now announced that GME will be shutting down in a year’s time. What happens next for GME users and what alternatives are there? Who will benefit from the demise of GME?

There’s 3 likely contenders to the throne of the GIS-lite approach of GME; ArcGIS Online, CartoDB and MapBox via their new Turf product.

There’s much irony here, given that GME was originally positioned as a web savvy alternative to traditional GIS platforms. Both Esri and Mapbox will need a significant advertising push and awareness campaign to attract GME emigres. CartoDB on the other hand is positioning itself as the official successor to GME with the launch of CartoDB for Google Maps Platform, apparently developed in conjunction with Google.

cartodb

I don’t think they’ll be any one winner and all of these wannabe successors to GME will likely benefit though CartoDB’s official seal of Google approval will tip the balance in their favour.

But there other contenders here as well …

There’s iSpatial, a Google Maps and Google Earth based product, which may make this attractive for people who want to continue the Google experience and look and feel.

The similarly named eSpatial is another Google Maps powered mapping platform with GME style functionality

At one end of the spectrum is uMap, an OSM based layering tool and platform, while pricier options include Maptitude and Mango.

Finally honourable mention should be made of Geojson.io, very much GeoJSON focused as the name suggests, but an easy visualisation tool for GeoJSON data.

Whilst these products may get some customers, they’ve already been competing with GME for users and for business, so I don’t see a massive uptake for these.

Finally of course, there’s Google themselves … users with some technical ability could replicate some of the functionality of GME with Google’s other maps and geo APIs and products.

While GME may be biting the dust, there’s a whole host of alternatives available for users looking to emigrate from Google’s platform and who will carry on visualising their spatial data, blissfully unable that they’re actually using a GIS platform.

Dead End by Alan English, CC-BY-NA

Written by Gary

A self-professed map addict, Gary has worked in the mapping and location space for over 20 years through a combination of luck and occasional good judgement. Gary is co-founder of Malstow Geospatial, which provides handmade, professional geospatial consulting. A Fellow of the RGS, he tweets about maps, writes about them...
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9 Comments

Graham Dunlop

Google has a track record of withdrawing eatablished apps – even those with a very significant user base such as Reader. My guess is user adoption simply isn’t high enough and resources are better served in the ongoing battle with Microsoft Office 365 for enterprise seats.

Tiana Warner

Nice list of alternatives. There are a lot to choose from, and some offer a closer comparison to GME than others. I think ArcGIS Online and CartoDB are probably the closest replacement systems because of their dynamic rendering abilities. I blogged about a few alternatives as well: http://blog.safe.com/2015/01/6-google-maps-engine-alternatives/

As to why Google is ending Maps Engine, that’s a bit of a mystery. At least Google Maps is here to stay.

Duarte

I wonder how many “partners” have built apps and services based on GME. That’s what bothers me most – Google breaking this trust relashionsips with people making a living while promoting and selling google’s products… just imagine having sold and implemented a light mapping solution to a client based on GME. What now? Multiply that over the whole world..

Gary

I get your point, but unless there was a contractual obligation in place, neither Google or any other organisation has any obligation to keep a service up and running. I think having brand trust slightly dented rather than broken is more applicable here. It’s also worth mentioning that Google has absolutely done the “right thing” in providing a long notice and transition period and working with other companies to provide viable alternatives for customers to migrate to.

If a partner feels “hard done by” that’s not an unfair reaction, but things change constantly online and we always need to have a Plan B for those times when partners do decide to shutter a service or go out of business.

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