Free maps of Singapore online!
From the TODAY
"Twist to online street map row
SLA sets up website that allows users to download maps free, gives information on State-owned lots
Leong Wee Keat
CAN you really use that online map without being slapped with a lawsuit? Singaporeans, who are familiar with such cases, now have one more resource to turn to.
Launched yesterday by the Singapore Land Authority (SLA), StreetMap@Singapore allows users to download street maps for personal and non-commercial use free. Users, for example, can utilise these maps to make personal invitation cards.
The SLA has also launched LandQuery, a map-based system that will provide information as well as ownership and contact details about land in Singapore, particularly State-owned lots.
Senior Minister of State for Law and Home Affairs Associate Professor Ho Peng Kee, who launched the services yesterday, denied that StreetMap@Singapore was the result of a series of lawsuits filed — and letters of demand sent — by an online map company against a slew of users for copyright infringement last year.
Since 2004, Virtual Map — the company that owes streetdirectory.com — has sent letters to hundreds of small and medium enterprises demanding payment for reproducing maps from its website. If they did not pay, these companies faced being sued.
So far, Virtual Map has filed five civil suits — against the likes of NTUC Income and Suncool — for copyright infringement. The suits have all been settled out of court.
Yesterday, Virtual Map managing director Firdhaus Akber refuted suggestions that legal action was a part of his company's business model. He pointed to an increase in online traffic — from 300,000 users in 2004 to about 600,000 users now — and an increase in revenue, from $2 million in 2004 to $5 million now, as proof. "If our objective is to sue, no one would want to do business with us," Mr Firdhaus told Today.
While SLA said its new service is not to compete with existing ones, StreetMap@Singapore's web interface is similar to streetdirectory.com's. On both sites, users can retrieve street maps by keying in an address, building or development name, postal code or the nearest MRT or LRT station. Interface options on both sites are also similar.
Virtual Map's Mr Firdhaus said his website "had the lead" in this face-off. Alluding to the map quality on StreetMap@Singapore, he said: "I think the public doesn't have to get too excited with their service."
He added that new landmarks such as VivoCity and Tanglin Village could not be found on the new website. "This clearly shows how much work they need to do to get up to speed," he said. "For us, not only do we update daily, we even provide information like 'formerly known as'. SLA's mapping application seems to be more focused on selling services related to land — such as land title and land information."
While its plan is to update street maps on its site every quarter, SLA's director of strategic planning and policy Ng Siau Yong said the maps would be updated more frequently if feedback was received from the public. The two services launched yesterday cost the SLA a total of $500,000. A further $200,000 will be spent each year to maintain the services.
Along with these new services, Prof Ho said the aim was to build SLA's Integrated Land Information Service into a one-stop portal for land information.
SLA sets up website that allows users to download maps free, gives information on State-owned lots"
This is interesting news. I wonder why would the government want to compete with Virtual Map for this small segment of business unless, Virtual Map was indeed causing a lot of problems for the government in the first place.
The interface for SLA service is indeed uncannily similar.
And to top it all, SLA is allowing people to use the maps for FREE! Granted the website is a bit slow right now, but I'm sure it will improve over the next few weeks.
I think this would be great for businesses as they can now post a map of where they are located on their websites or print them out etc. Good move SLA! Credit where credit is due.
As for Virtual Map's Mr Firdhaus' comment in reference to the quality of StreetMaps@Singapore's online maps, "I think the public doesn't have to get too excited with their service." I think Mr Firdhaus has missed the point totally. The public and businesses are going to be excited because the service is FREE. Yes the word FREE brings out the biggest smile and generates the most excitement in the land of Singapore.
I'm sure Virtual Map's revenue is bound to drop a bit now that they have a competitor that gives free map usage and possible might get more advertising contracts on their site.
Good luck Virtual Map!