back to article Google wins High Court fight with StreetMap over search results self-pluggery

Google has won a High Court case brought by StreetMap over anticompetitive business practices, one of several in the legal pipeline. Streetmap first sued Google in April 2013, arguing that Google’s search dominance favoured its own Google Maps product. In June 2007, the Californian multinational had begun promoting Google …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I never really bothered with Streetmap - I found it was pretty useless compared to Google Maps. :(

    That said, I also find competition laws like this a little odd. I mean I get the point of them, to a degree. But to say that you can't release a product or change if it will deny your competitors a fair chance just seems to defeat the point in trying to be at the top of the tree. Better to sit in the number two slot surely?

    1. DavCrav

      "That said, I also find competition laws like this a little odd. I mean I get the point of them, to a degree. But to say that you can't release a product or change if it will deny your competitors a fair chance just seems to defeat the point in trying to be at the top of the tree. Better to sit in the number two slot surely?"

      It's to stop GloboMegaCorp from entering a market, using profits from one industry to subsidize a loss-maker until they drive everyone else out of business, and then jack up the prices. Google is very successful at the cross-subsidizing abuse-of-monopoly part of this, despite the dim-witted judge's appraisal of the situation.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "I never really bothered with Streetmap - I found it was pretty useless compared to Google Maps"

      Really? It's ironic. Google maps are actually no more than road & street maps plus aerial/satellite photography. Streetmap's maps are the real deal OS maps, crammed with detail. But I suppose you actually have to be good at map reading to get the best out of them.

      1. Cuddles Silver badge

        OS maps

        "Really? It's ironic. Google maps are actually no more than road & street maps plus aerial/satellite photography. Streetmap's maps are the real deal OS maps, crammed with detail."

        The trouble is, that's exactly why StreetMap fails. OS maps are available from many different sources - I have a couple of apps on my phone that use them, and Bing maps and various other fairly big players also do. Even back in 2007 StreetMap was far from unique in that regard (I was going to mention Multimap as the one most people I know used, and it turns out MS bought them that year). Google maps are great if you just want a road atlas, while if you want more StreetMap does nothing to distinguish itself from the competition.

        1. MJI Silver badge

          Re: OS maps

          Multimap was my favourite!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It's about abuse of their search monopoly

      Google has an effective monopoly in search. A lot of that is because they simply offer the best search engine, but it allows them to drive traffic to their own properties and starve out competition.

      Let's say today I search for 'linux', I see entries Ubuntu, Debian, etc. in their top 10. If Google introduced their own Linux distribution, and gave it the same time of prime placement that they give Google Maps, their shopping links and so forth, they could quickly win a lot of share for their own distro and unfairly handicap the future success of Ubuntu and Debian. Maybe Google's Linux is better than those, maybe it is worse, but because such a large portion of internet searches use Google most of them will see Google's Linux in a prominent place.

      Obviously this only works for things people search for. No one looks for social networks by searching for 'social networking', otherwise Google+ might have been able to take on Facebook. If you're looking to buy an electric car you probably don't search "electric cars" and even if you do seeing a potential future Google car in a prime place and Tesla down in the list probably won't matter in influencing a decision where people are spending tens of thousands of dollars.

  2. cs94njw

    I was a huge fan of StreetMap. But I hate to say it, but Google innovated way beyond what StreetMap could offer.

    This lawsuit is sour grapes, but I do mourn their passing :(

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      but Google innovated way beyond what StreetMap could offer.

      To some extent, however Google Map's aren't the same quality as Streetmap's, probably because Streetmap uses Ordinance Survey maps... But then I suppose those who have to use a satnav just to get to their local supermarket wouldn't appreciate the difference.

      1. wikkity

        RE: To some extent, however Google Map's aren't the same quality as Streetmap's, probably because Streetmap uses Ordinance Survey maps..

        That obviously depends on the purpose people are using them, OS is great for many things but not every usecase, but often you don't need to know contours or if a road is very steep. Generally, People obviously prefer a less cluttered and more interactive map, you can't overlay live traffic info on an OS map, it would look terrible.

        Much of OS data is now open, Streetmap are very far behind, they just seem to be regurgitating OS raster maps, maybe if they just stopped whining and focused on improving thy could have got somewhere. Today, they could be using the OS datasets to create a much better product. I've used a lot of their data and you can create some nice accurate maps tailored to the task at hand.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. DavCrav

      "I was a huge fan of StreetMap. But I hate to say it, but Google innovated way beyond what StreetMap could offer.

      This lawsuit is sour grapes, but I do mourn their passing :("

      When did Google do this innovating? In 2007, as the article said? I remember Google Maps being total shite then, but still it magically came top of their results. As a consequence, StreetMap lost almost all its traffic and so couldn't innovate.

      Your argument is rather like asking why the guy whose arms you just chopped off isn't fighting back so much as you punch him in the face.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Ummm...

        "...As a consequence, StreetMap lost almost all its traffic and so couldn't innovate."

        StreetMap lost *existing* clients, not just new ones. If the sign at your favorite pub was removed tomorrow, but the pub remained open, would you forget it was there or simply pass it over for the pub next door? Also, there is an entire world outside the UK, Google obviously recognize this.

        StreetMap is a useless website to anyone outside of their little corner of the world.

        StreetMap lost all its traffic *because* it didn't innovate.

    4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "but I do mourn their passing"

      Passing? They're still there.

    5. Rol

      If Streetmap had maintained its market, then they may have had the money to expand the service and be the go to place.

      Basically Google owns all the billboards and when it suits them they can put their products on the advertising boards with the greatest prominence and relegate all others to the backstreet.

      A competitor to Google would find the cost of placing themselves on the most looked at billboards extraordinarily expensive, while Google has only an opportunity cost to count, which if no one is looking to pay for top billing is a zero cost.

      That is what is unfair, and the very point the judge failed to see.

      As we have seen in many areas, taking 19th century law and applying it unswervingly to a 21st century phenomena is frankly laughable.

  3. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    Since 2007?

    More like since 1997.

    1. Paul Shirley

      Re: Since 2007?

      As far as I remember Google captured maps before it started showing up in search results and you had to go to their maps site explicitly. The competitors had a couple of years to improve their products, don't remember any of them doing anything at all, while increasing numbers of us sought out Googles primitive but silky smooth version.

      1. AZump

        Re: Since 2007?

        We shouldn't dwell on the fact that StreetMaps is useless outside GB/UK either. Their loss of traffic has nothing to do with their "limited customer base". ...nope, not one bit. They would have an argument if they retained their existing traffic and stopped getting "new traffic", but, they didn't, they lost all of it. Obviously their clients found a better service and moved on. This is exactly how the free market they compete in works.

  4. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Meh

    Hmm

    Personally I mostly use streetmap and almost never use anything google-tainted unless there is no alternative.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Hmm

      "Personally I mostly use streetmap"

      So do I. AFAIK they don't have any APIs which would enable them to be used by other sites. Possibly there are limitations in their licence with the Ordnance* Survey which prevents this. I wish it were possible to have them in the OpenLayers plugin in QGIS.

      *NOT Ordinance!

    2. DropBear

      Re: Hmm

      I for one much prefer OpenStreetMap and almost never use anything GMaps _or_ Ordnance Survey-tainted.

      1. fuzzie

        Re: Hmm

        Caveat: Happy customer plug for HERE maps.

        They're a bit light on StreetView style views and the business/place index is not as comprehensive as GMaps', but... I find HERE to be very up to date, accurate and voice navigation for walking and drive is great. Throw in some other nice-to-haves like speed limit and safety camera alerts, traffic info and lane guidance. Depending on location, you also get public transit options. All that and you can download the maps for entire countries (or US states) for full offline use (though without bits like traffic alerts or satellite views).

  5. MJI Silver badge

    I bl00dy hate google maps

    It just annoys me

    They restrict the URL call for showing things on the map, then cut down the details.

    They show lanes as white on light grey, very difficult to see zoomed out. If I zoom out to see my commute I cannot see 3/4 of the route.

    As to streetmap - I want a bigger/wider map! Then I could zoom in more.

    OS - p155 poor compared to their printed maps, completely wasted opportunity

    MS - white/grey stop copying google - but then it has OS overlays like the paper maps, OK it ONLY usable with OS overlay.

    For all the online mapping agencies take this piece of advice for free, we do want to see routes we take, we want to see more than a yellow line with nothing off it, go to a map shop and pick up the following types 1/50000 Landranger (Purple) and 1/25000 Explorer (orange & yellow)

    These are clear, easy to read and usable.

    OS - USE YOUR MAP STYLE ON YOUR ONLINE MAP.

    For all of you, use the German tinplate toy map site ran by MS and select OS overlay, I can see my whole commute, all roads clear, even footpaths, green lanes, and very importantly pubs

  6. MJI Silver badge

    More bile

    MS - allow me to remove that pile of junk from the left so I can fill the screen with map.

    1. VinceH

      Re: More bile

      Er... you can. There should be a little tab sticking out of it with an arrow pointing left. Click on that and the sidebar closes.

      1. MJI Silver badge

        Re: More bile

        That was missing when I did my head to head.

        May be a Firefox thing.

        Oh and one final thing, for reasons of wanting my eyes to last with Windows and similar WIMP OSes I need to crank brightness back down to prevent dazzle.

        Some people suggest upping brightness with Google maps - not an option

  7. Jason Bloomberg

    Guidance issued by the Office of Fair Trading clearly lists the four-stage process a company needs to take: risk identification; risk assessment; risk mitigation; and review.

    So if I ever did discover a cure for cancer; I couldn't give that away for free it it would impact on the commercial viability of big pharma?

    1. DavCrav

      "So if I ever did discover a cure for cancer; I couldn't give that away for free it it would impact on the commercial viability of big pharma?"

      Indeed. You cannot use one business to prop up a loss-maker somewhere else in order to drive out the competition. You can sell it at cost price, and that would do "big pharma" serious damage too, but no, you cannot spend your own money driving an industry out of business. Because maybe you are just waiting until that happens before jacking the price up to eye-watering levels.

      This isn't rocket science or gravitational wave detection people, it's pretty simple: competition law is there to stop abuse of power.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Cure for cancer

      Sure, if big Pharma were offering a cure for cancer :/

  8. Mikel

    Oh no!

    When searching for a place, a map to the place is relevant information.

  9. Roland6 Silver badge

    Wider impact

    There is a wider impact and I think we've been here before over both Google's presentation of search results and their use of the whitespace to the right of the search results, to return quick information about films, books, music, companies, sports teams etc.. that the user would have otherwise clicked through to a website to obtain. From memory, Wikipedia made a complaint about this, because often the information being presented came from Wikipedia...

    What is interesting, is that given (currently) Google primarily makes it's money from AdWords and AdSense, it is probably in it's interest to drive users to click through to websites that appear in the search results rather than have them dwell on Google's own sites. Hence Google is probably missing a trick by not engaging with third-parties such as Streetmap to produce click through content for the quick information box.

  10. Paul

    I remember streetmap being pretty crappy, and even the first version of Google maps being so much better that I stopped using streetmap straight away. Frankly, had streetmap been any good they would have been able to hold on to their user base.

  11. John Lilburne

    Google maps infringed on 1000s of photographers work

    They took RSS geodata feeds from flickr and put them into their web search. So if someone had put holiday pics from X on flickr maps a search for X would provide an KLM wrapper of the RSS feed which pointed directly to Google maps with thumbs of the images plastered over it. So photos of someone's kid playing on the sand got used to promote a commercial website.

    That wasn't the whole problem though. Because the relevance of the images was dependent on how often some one was updating flickr and how often Google trawled the RSS feeds. So yesterday someone might have uploaded beach photos from X which Google trawled and the following day conference photos from Y. The RSS feed would now be pointing to Y so a search for X got the KLM wrapper which plastered photos from Y. The whole exercise (which lasted for several years) was useless as a search option as it was hardly ever relevant, it was simply a sparkle for GM.

  12. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  13. Bota

    For those who want to avoid the Google all seeing eye:

    Yandex - Russias homegrown rival also available in English - https://www.yandex.com/

    Or utilising Google without the tracking: www.startpage.com

    or there's: duckduckgo

    To be honest I find myself using Yandex a lot due to it's excellent image search and better than Google relevance when searching for white papers.

    Enjoy.

    1. David1

      Thanks for the info' - Yandex looks pretty good.

      Bing Maps has also got much better lately.

      Google Maps on the other hand is much worse than it used to be.

  14. simms

    i think the nub of the argument is that Google id able to invest billions in mapping with no need to generate any income from that business unit, it was simply a loss leader that supported its need to ensure people go to the Google homepage to start their visit on the internet.

    The fact 1000s of staff around the world in country specific mapping companies were put out of business overnight appeared to not matter as each country has no power over a foreign company regarding monopoly powers. Governments are also powerless and toothless.

    It is interesting how smart the China have been to block Google and in so doing create enormously important businesses such as Baidu search engine and Alibaba that are now global businesses. its a shame Europe did not shield its own local tech companies to give them a little space to build but were still born due to the sunami of Google muscle.

    It was interesting 5 years ago when Google started to provide the abiliity for estate agents to simply post their properties directly to Google maps. It was a brilliant service but i did wonder how the world of Rightmove etc would take it as they would be out of business in a short period of time as they would be obsolete. The reality was that Rightmove etc all threatened Google to pull their advertising and that quickly stopped the project in its tracks. The Google property service was ended.

    It is interesting that Google do not tread on specific markets where they extract vast advertising revenue. However the companies in mapping, analytics, mobile OS or email have been gobbled up with no need to generate income and can loss lead for as long as it takes before all other competitors are wiped out.

    I think streetmap have a strong case as if you put Google maps on their own they would have lost billions by now and gone out of business but it only propped up by Google advertising.

    Imagine Tesco having a monopoly on the sale of water and charging extortionate prices for this commodity but giving all food away for free as long as you need to buy expensive water from their stores. This is pretty much what Google are doing and no one seems to notice that their monopoly to charge companies vast sums for basic advertising on their search engine means they can give away everything else for free and in so doing wipe out many smaller companies around the world.

  15. Alan Denman

    A monopoly and a cartel problem

    Its not like you can build a new mall that everyone droves past and sees is it?

    It is a bit of a nightmare where you need an alternative internet to the internet!!!

  16. Kelli

    On the continent these are the best looking maps. They look different in the uk.

    http://www.viamichelin.com/web/Maps

  17. Chris Hunt

    I'm confused.

    Google shouldn't be allowed to give away maps for free, because they are only doing so to attract people to their site to click on adverts. This is unfair competition with Streetmap who... wait for it... give away maps for free, to attract people to their site to click on adverts.

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