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.
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