April 19, 2006 4:16 AM PDT

Mashups for fun--and profit?

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Beyond ads, other potential sources of revenue are affiliate programs through which hotels and airlines would pay mashups for generating referrals, said David Schorr, founder of the mashup sites WeatherBonk.com and SkiBonk.com. However, many affiliate programs are "hesitant to expose their data," he said in an e-mail response to questions.

There are certainly reasons for skepticism about the mashup model, such as its reliance on mapping software from other companies, said Randy Haykin, a managing director at Outlook Ventures.

"The challenge with a mashup is it may not fully hold its own destiny. They are somewhat at the mercy of the open components that the Googles, Yahoos and Microsofts have provided," he said. "So far, I haven't seen one (mashup) that looks like it could be a standalone company."

It's unlikely that Google would pull the plug on its APIs, but "if your whole concept is riding on somebody who isn't giving support, there is a business risk there," said Mike Pegg, creator of Google Maps Mania, which catalogs several mashups each day.

Giving away the tools
For companies that want to get support and commercialize their mashups, Microsoft, America Online's MapQuest and start-up Placebase license technology for a fee.

Most of the mashups, however, are using free APIs from Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and MapQuest, which in general don't allow sites to charge for access to the maps or to make money off them other than by selling ads. They are giving the technology away so developers will create mashup sites, which can eventually host ads.

Google recently modified its maps API terms of service to ask mashups with heavy volume (more than 500,000 page views per day) to contact Google so the company can provision enough bandwidth for the increased traffic, said Bret Taylor, product manager for Google developer products. Google also says it will give 90 days warning to developers before putting any ads on the maps that the mashups are using, but hasn't admitted to any plans to put ads on maps.

"We are not necessarily looking to monetize this directly," Taylor said. "We are not launching any advertising program right now. Whether it (will) opt out is up in the air."

MapQuest plans to have contextually relevant ads on its maps, said MapQuest Operations Director Christian Dwyer. "We will probably partner with AOL to organize how those ads are sold and displayed and they would syndicate those ads down to those sites," he said.

Tom Bailey, director of marketing at Microsoft's Virtual Earth, said Microsoft also is planning to put ads on maps and share revenue with mashups. "We will be working with many of those customers to figure out the right way for us to do revenue share and still make it very attractive for them," he said.

While some mashups, such as Platial, won't want ads displayed directly on their maps, others won't mind generating some revenue.

"That wouldn't be a problem for me," said Paul Degnan, the creator of the popular Gmaps Pedometer site, which lets people map and figure out distances they've walked, run or bicycled. "As long as the roads and satellite images are there...a few ads here or there aren't really going to get in the way of that."

"To some it might be a little obnoxious," Degnan added, "but I don't think it's going to stop people from using it."

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10 comments

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Concern about revenue
If the backbone of your service is provided by somebody else then you are at risk.
Google, Microsoft, AOL have all said they may place ads through their mapping services.

This means mash-up sites will just end up being another adSense website. (I know adSense is Googles brand and the other call it something else)
For sites hoping to get their own advertising in place they will have to compete with the likes of Google.
With Googles history and focus on advertising for revenue this isnt a fight Id like to take on and I expect most start-ups will also find it difficult.

The only hope I see if for Mash-Ups to become mature enough to afford the licence fees for a non-ad placed version of the mapping service before they run out of funds and the excitement of mash-ups is reduced.
Posted by ahickey (177 comments )
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Print Mode
When we print CNET articles, could you add all the relevant web links at the bottom of the page.
Posted by webwala (15 comments )
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Useful idea... will be considered
The idea of taking the in-line links out and putting them at the bottom of the printer-friendly version has some merit. I wonder how many people will want to type out the full URLs, rather than simply go to the live version of the story (which URL is on the printer-friendly page) and click away from there.

Not promising, but considering.

Thanks for reading and participating.

John Roberts
CNET News.com product development
Posted by pencoyd (82 comments )
Link Flag
Platform with great possibilities
I see alot of potential in the mashup space. In my opionion Microsfot, Google and others are just providing a platform that all sorts of applications can be built on top of. With the right creativity, there are endless possibilities. Zillow is a great example of a site that could revolutionize the real estate industry just like Travelocity and Expedia revolutionized the travel industry.

One thing this article didn't mention is that Microsoft already allows commercial use of their Virtual Earth API provided that limited ads are allowed on the map (triggered by a search bar above the map). I'm using this on my site - www.VirtualWorldRealEstate.com. I won't mind when they officially role out their advertising plan especially since it will provide revenue sharing.
Posted by VirtualWorld (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Its easy to monetize these
You just have to know about the google curves.
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://blog.tallsails.com/2006/04/10/the-google-curves.aspx" target="_newWindow">http://blog.tallsails.com/2006/04/10/the-google-curves.aspx</a>
Posted by ntis (6 comments )
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popurls
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://popurls.com/" target="_newWindow">http://popurls.com/</a> is the best mashup web 2.0 has seen so far
Posted by robinlast (4 comments )
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not just about maps
this headline caught my attention and interest, but as i was reading this article it became clear to me that this author does not really get it...and has painted a picture that myopically associates "mashing" with online mapping applications. it is not just about using Google and Yahoo to create nifty mapping tools.
Posted by sdornan (1 comment )
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Mashup Directory
Found a directory for mashups here:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.webmashup.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.webmashup.com</a>
Posted by Mashup (1 comment )
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http://www.programmableweb.com is the main mashup site these days.

In response to ahickey on April 19th - I too was concerned that eventually Google would place ads all over their maps product but 3 years on and this still has not happened. Good news and I hope it stays this way as we have developed several mashups based on Google maps and advertising would be a royal pain! Here are some of our mashups:
http://www.sletoh.com - compare hotels in Europe
http://www.tubehotels.com - compare London hotels
Posted by pintofmilk (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Awesome post.Here's a tool that helps create Map Mashup providing a step-by-step wizard that generates ready-to-deploy code on any website or blog http://blog.caspio.com/integration/announcing-the-new-and-improved-map-mashup-version-7/
Posted by mlee3680 (16 comments )
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