My daughter had a swollen infected face on a holiday morning, so I looked up nearby walk-in clinics on Google Maps. The one I picked was deserted, efficient, and kind. Afterward, without even thinking about it, I tapped a good review into the map. Then I wondered if I might be part of a really big problem.
On Google · I’m still broadly in sympathy with Google’s efforts on the Internet, which have mostly made it better. And they’re so easy to understand: They want everyone to be online all the time to see ads, ideally on a Google property where they don’t have to divvy the take.
Autonomous vehicles? Online while driving. Google Glass? Online while walking. Blogspot? Gmail? Maps? YouTube? Whatever you’re doing, do it here please.
On reviews · Crowdsourced reviews are, on balance, a Good Thing. Sure, for anything you care deeply about, there are specialist pubs with writing by educated pros: DPReview, Wirecutter, Stereophile, and so on.
But for shopping sites, travel sites, anything sites, a good review infrastructure that inspires trust is a huge value-add.
But, for hardware stores? Clinics? Gastropubs? In fact, anything you use a map for? It dawns on me that I’ve started consulting those reviews that pop up on every map search; because they’re useful. And now, I’ve written one. And did Google ever let me know they were happy; unctuous thanks, gentle encouragement to do it again.
Google’s dominance in the map space never bothered me because the product, by and large, is very good. Maps would be very near the top of any list of apps I value and use the most. But the potential commercial power in that review inventory is awesomely, frighteningly, high. I thought of a few ways you might monetize it and they all left bad tastes in my mouth. On top of which, it’s a moat around Maps, making it hard for a competitive technology — this is the first generation of online mapping, of course there are huge improvements to come — to get a foothold.
Me declining to review places won’t bend any curves. But now I don’t feel so good about doing it.