WEB DESK: Microsoft invented Google Earth under the banner of ‘Terraserver’ which let you see your house from space long before Google even thought about it.
Microsoft held a launch event of ‘Terraserver’ in New York City that Bill Gates attended. On the first day, 8 million people accessed the site, “millions more were rejected,” according to a white paper published in 2000.
By the end of the week, it was getting 30 million hits a day. Ultimately, the site settled down and served roughly 7 million people every day. It was more successful than anyone at Microsoft ever anticipated.
The question is: Why did Microsoft not pick up the prototype? ‘Microsoft looked at Terraserver as a novelty project rather than a potentially world-changing one’, according to Business Insider.
“In the first year, I got 20,000 emails, and the vast majority of them said one of two things,” Tom Barclay, database developer for Terraserver said.
“It was either ‘I love Terraserver, I saw my house’ or ‘I hate Terraserver, I didn’t see my house’ We learned that 85 percent of all geospacial queries are local. They’re looking for local search—they want to find whatever dry cleaner is around the corner, or where they could get fast food.”
Microsoft failed to realize that Terraserver could be used as a database to collect habits of the local user, said a New York Times article.
Terraserver went offline in 2007, and Barclay spent most of his time working on Bing Maps. Microsoft periodically revived Terraserver from time to time even after 2007, but it’s offline forever now.
It’s easy to look at Terraserver as a missed opportunity for Microsoft to dominate the next era of computing, and it’s hard to say why, exactly, the company decided to stop pouring resources into it.
“[T]he company didn’t care about the information [on Terraserver],” Tom Barclay, the man behind the project, told Motherboard. “Google was an information company first. They saw the value of the information.”
Hindsight is 20/20 and both Google and Microsoft have grown into two of the biggest companies on Earth with respective market valuations of $505 billion (£332 billion) and $420 billion (£277 billion), Business Insider states
It adds that Terraserver, in its 1997 form, could have been Microsoft’s future, but the company chose to use it to host other people’s data and is now one of the biggest hosting companies in the world with tens of billions in revenue per year.
Source: Business Insider