One of the long term challenges with Apple Maps is improving the Point of Interest (POI) content. It’s a problem that remains even as Apple rolls out ‘New Maps’ based on their proprietary collected image data. Justin O’Beirne has covered it from the US angle, I have posted about the messy Japanese POI situation many times. Despite the Apple Maps image collection effort around the globe, the quality of POI content has not improved. It is all over the map compounded by the inability of the Apple Maps system to filter and intelligently juggle multiple POI sources. Apple is stuck with 3rd party POI content from Yelp, Foursquare, TripAdvisor, Tabelog and countless others that Apple doesn’t ‘own’: they don’t collect it, they don’t edit it. Until now.
Today Apple rolled out Apple Business Connect. Eddie Cue:“We created Business Connect to provide Apple users around the world with the most accurate information for places to eat, shop, travel, and more.” Whew, good thing because people who use Apple Maps always complain about Yelp: the content is out of date, ancient reviews don’t reflect reality, or worse, the reviews are gamed by bots, hacks or ‘kakikomi butai’ (post entry battalions) in China or North Korea.
Don’t laugh, a Japanese Korean friend once told me about the computer class curriculum at his Korean school in Japan. The teacher would announce the class assignment of the day: writing and posting glowing product reviews of Korean products on various review sites. The old Unification Church in Japan was notorious for employing a virtual ‘post to order’ kakikomi butai operation that paid by the character. This is why I never believe in crowdsourced anything. To me it’s mostly fake or manipulated, with little oversight by stupidity or design. Most Americans seem to believe in it still but crowdsourced content is risky and trouble prone: Yelp and even Tabelog have had to address periodic content scandals online and in court.
So Apple is taking charge of its own POI content. Over the past year Apple Maps has rolled out POI ratings and picture uploads linked the user Apple ID, wisely omitting reviews and limited to places to eat and drink, places to shop and places to stay. So Apple now controls both the POI upload content pipeline and the ratings pipeline. The biggest challenge will be how well Apple manages the POI content swap out process. Is 3rd party POI content automatically swapped out when Business Connect POI is uploaded and Apple verified? More importantly, how exactly does Apple verify Business Connect content? There certainly isn’t an Apple army of ground truth experts roaming around. The proof will be in the content verification and management, and will take time to find out the results. There is also the Eddie Cue mentioned ‘places to travel and more’ stuff that isn’t addressed by Apple Business Connect. We’ll find out about that in time as well I guess, but at least the Apple Maps team finally has a game plan to solve their POI content problems.