Now if someone wants to create an open source version of Google Maps then I've most certainly not got any complaints about that. What people want to do, on a voluntary basis, in association with others is just fine by me. It's just the justification that is being used that rather confuses. After noting that we all used to work on local time and only moved over to national time when the railways made it necessary, our intrepid technologist insists that:
The modern daytime dilemma is geography, and everyone is looking to be the definitive source. Google spends $1bn annually maintaining their maps, and that does not include the $1.5bn Google spent buying the navigation company Waze. Google is far from the only company trying to own everywhere, as Nokia purchased Navteq and TomTom and Tele Atlas try to merge. All of these companies want to become the definitive source of what's on the ground.
That's because what's on the ground has become big business. With GPSes in every car, and a smartphone in every pocket, the market for telling you where you are and where to go has become fierce. With all these companies, why do we need a project like OpenStreetMap? The answer is simply that as a society, no one company should have a monopoly on place, just as no one company had a monopoly on time in the 1800s.
Place is a shared resource, and when you give all that power to a single entity, you are giving them the power not only to tell you about your location, but to shape it. In summary, there are three concerns: who decides what gets shown on the map, who decides where you are and where you should go, and personal privacy.
I can see that monopoly ownership of online mapping could conceivably be a bad idea. But the actual complaint here is that because there are many companies competing with each other therefore we must prevent monopoly by introducing a new supplier. Which is ludicrous of course: we don't have monopoly, the amount of money being spent (he could have mentioned Apple Maps and several others too) means that we're most unlikely to have monopoly anytime soon and therefore the argument falls flat on its face.
Seriously, why are these concepts so hard for people to understand? Perhaps open source mapping is indeed a good idea. Perhaps we don't want a monopoly in online mapping. But to point to the existence of fierce competition in online mapping as the very reason that we should fear monopoly in it is absurd.