Small businesses are getting sick of Google charging big sums for access to its popular Maps product. If you just like to use Google Maps to find out how to get to the closest steakhouse, you don't have to pay to use the product. But your local steakhouse probably embeds a map on their website, and if it they have a popular website, they'll have to pay. Location data evangelist James Fee told The New York Times that the pay-to-play set-up, which kicked in last October, "will touch 30 or 40 percent of people who really depend on maps for their business. It could cost [business owners] tens of thousands of dollars a month." ComScore numbers show that Google Maps accounted for 71 percent of all online map usage in the month of February. The number two site, AOL's MapQuest, has less than half of that user base.
While less well known, there are alternatives, with some companies depending on users not only to look at the maps but also to help draw and maintain them. Here are three ways to get around without Google Maps.
This Israeli startup builds maps geared towards drivers. Waze is part interactive map, part Twitter-like stream, offering up open-source maps for the entire world that depend on its 45,000 map editors to draw the maps and 5,000 "regional managers" to make sure they're correct. The 14 million drivers that use Waze around the world can add updates anytime, and they'll flow through a stream of alerts that includes everything from traffic jams to police sightings. While the maps do work on the Web, the real utility is in the mobile apps, and Waze offers an app for almost any platform including iPhone, Android, and Windows Phone.