Portals battle to provide better map services
By Yoon Ja-young
The competition among portals to improve map services is cutthroat following Google’s local upgrade. As the axis of information shifts from text to visuals in the advent of the ubiquitous smartphone, map applications have become the core service of portals.
From December, Google started a service in Korea through which users can view the inside of a store. Offered in 37 cities around the world, in Seoul it covers over 1,000 locations, most of which are restaurants.
Naver, the country’s top portal, upgraded its map service for both desktop and mobile users after conducting an analysis of user experiences. Places that users often search for such as hospitals, convenience stores, supermarkets, gas stations, banks and restaurants are shown as an icon so that information can easily be by accessed by touching it. They can check the location, address, and how to get there on public transportation with one search, on top of finding out traffic conditions as well as what time the bus will arrive. It offers more details on transferring to other transportation as well.
“We will continue making our services more convenient and make efforts to offer a better user-focused information platform,” said Han Seong-sook, head of the search quality center at the portal. Naver currently takes 70 percent of the market in desktop map services.
Meanwhile Daum, another major portal here, is wooing pedestrians. It recently launched a map service tailored to those on foot, following services for taking public transportation or driving.
It offers not only the route but also the time it will take and the total distance to the destination. It also tells users the shortest route or which way they should go to avoid stairs. They can see the route in advance through Daum’s “Road View.” The service is currently limited to the metropolitan area, but there are plans to expand it to other regions.
Daum has been offering diverse map services, offering information not only for streets but also hiking trails and parks.
Its “Store View” service, launched in July, is becoming popular among businesses. Through their desktop computers, mobile phones and smart pads, users can see not only shop interiors but also receive information on other stores, restaurants, department stores, hospitals and resorts. These businesses are increasingly contacting Daum to have their facilities included in the service.
“The Daum map and store view services improve accessibility to shops, on top of providing information on events, coupons and reviews. Businesses are increasingly taking interest in the service as a new marketing tool,” said Lee Sang-hyuk, in charge of local business at Daum. “As smartphones are more widely used and the number of Daum map application users surpasses 12 million, the services are expected to be an effective online marketing method,” he added.
Not to be left out Nate, a portal operated by SK Communications, has enhanced its map service with restaurants. Users can search for a suitable restaurant by setting search conditions such as the price, make reservations and check for parking availability and even specify the reason for going out to eat such as on a date, family gathering or business meeting.
It also recommends popular places in Seoul, based on check-in information from location based services and uploads of user created content on the Internet.
Amid the explosive growth of smart devices the competition in map services is expected to become fiercer as portals try to get ahead in the promising market. The location based service market here is estimated to have reached 1.3 trillion won last year.