Notes from SDForum GeoSearch & Mapping Event

I went to the SDForum’s SearchSIG event last night on GeoSearch and Mapping. My guess is that there were about 150-200 people there and I have posted my notes in Q&A format for those of you with an interest in the content. Given that mapping is a fairly competitive area, most of the presenters played it pretty close to the vest.

As an aside, I found Andy’s comments to be the most entertaining, especially his remarks about how users could feel safe conducting searches on Ask as the DOJ never came knocking on their doors.

Also, these are just notes — none of the statements below are direct quotes from the speakers and panelists and they only reflect my best effort to capture what was said. I was also not able to capture every single audience question.

Moderator: Brady Forrest, O’Reilly Media (formerly of Microsoft)

Panelists:

* Alex Daley, Microsoft
* Jeremy Kreitler, Yahoo Maps and Local
* Thai Tran, Google
* Andy Yang, Ask.com

Q: What do your mapping APIs do for your respective businesses?

*Google: Map APIs bring information online that wasn’t available before. Many of our map API partners also use AdSense to generate revenue.
*Ask: Mashups are free marketing. They build brand recognition. Looking at building structured APIs for other IAC companies.
*Yahoo: We have 35+ APIs. Marketing and bringing content online is driver. We are championing GeoRSS.

Q: What other data layers do you plan to add?

*Yahoo: We are focused on layering lots of data onto other Yahoo properties. User generated content is a real focus.
*Google: Our developer community will generate most of the cool applications.
*Ask: The challenge is making sure you balance core vs add-on features. The basic value add for maps is getting from point a to b. There is a lot of room for realtime and historical info to improve this process. Historical and realtime traffic information, for example.

Q: Should users be concerned about privacy given recent DOJ actions?

*Yahoo: Yahoo keeps some cached and personalized info. Saving this data helps users. If they want it, we have to put controls in place for storing and accessing it.
*Google: We log only what is needed. We have internal data privacy policies. Long pause and he lost his train of thought.
*Ask: The DOJ never asked us so you can search on ask!

Q: What other innovations do you have planned?

*Google: No comment. You won’t see a lot of flashy features from GOOG.
*Andy: We are missing local info. We can leverage other IAC properties (Citysearch, Evite, etc) to get this info.
*Yahoo: We won’t be doing anything flashy just for flashy UI sake

Q: Maps are used by people on the go. When will you do more on the mobile platform?

*Yahoo: I like to ask the carriers when they will improve development environment and build faster networks. Many technical challenges and hard things to solve. We will focus on more stuff like Y! Go.
*Google: we do lots of stuff today. GLM, SMS search, Google mobile, xHTML, etc.
*Ask: SMS and WAP are both good enough for many applications. I just mail directions to my phone. Phone will become one common personal scratchpad. GPS will happen sooner rather than later.

Audience Q: Where are you going to spend your investment dollars? On data, interfaces, or apps?

*Google: The data layer is fundamental. You really need good data.
*Yahoo: imagery is expensive but important. Lots of local data you can’t license or crawl. We are using social ratings/feedback to bolster local content. Most good data is in the heads of humans.

Audience Q: What about street level data? When will we see more of that?

*Panel consensus: This data is high on the wow factor but low in terms of actual user utility.

As always, I am available via email.