Geocaching, Opencaching, other sites and the future.
So we are apparently moving towards the arrival of a new site. I had a few ideas about the site.
I only believe there is room for one site that you pay for. Would I drop geocaching.com for another? No. Would I pay for another site? No. It would have to be substantially better then the geocaching site and I don't see that happening. I also have invested a lot into this site, and the phone apps that work with it.
The battle of the free sites. I have not seen much in the free arena for a while. Navicaching, and Terracaching seem to be languishing. At least here in Utah. I counted 40 caches for Terracaching and 100 for Navicaching. Many are listed on all three sites, and many are in hard to reach locations. Because I tend to geoaching alone these are out of the question. My wife would kill me if I died in the back country geocaching. I am serious she would hunt down my ghost and kill it again and again, and say "I told you to never go alone."
Opencaching.us is the newest kid on the block, and is another novelty at the moment. Yet also seems slow out of the gate. Well at the same rate as geocaching was at first. In a few months they have garnered about 350 caches. Slow going but still to early to know if they can be as successful as the other two.
I actually think there are three ways that a website can survive, and thrive. In today's market you need money. So your site either needs to make money off of advertising, ask you to pay, or dump money into it.
Paid memberships.. Geocaching and Terracaching
Advertising - the original Opencaching and Navicaching
The money dump - Garmins opencaching.com
So I dont see a contest between Geocaching and Terracaching. There is not enough caches to realy make me work at terracaching.
Advertising and selling products (t-shirts, hats, etc) is a hard haul. If you are not the big boy on the block your advertising income is pretty low.
Dumping money. Apparently this is free. I saw no hint of how they intend to make money off the product. Advertising could be there. Would Garmin allow Delorme and Magellan to advertise? Would they even want to? My guess is no, unless there was no other game in town. They may want to use it to pimp their own products.
The hard part is that it costs money to run a site. Programming, so it looks professional and up to date; bandwidth; product development; advertisements; all of them start to add up. Some strike an equilibrium. Many of the sites listed above do not have a full time staff, or even a part time staff. It is all volunteers working on their own time. They try to find that balance where the costs and the income meet. Updates are put off because of lack of time or money, upgrades consist of new cache types, or maps, and advertising is zero because the money is not there.
If a company is not making money? Why is it around? How many advertising campaigns last five years? One or two years is unusual now days. That is my concern with the opencaching.com. If Garmin is dumping money to keep it up to date, how long will that last. If there is no income it will fade. Eventually a change in corporate leadership and someone says. "Why are we dumping a half million dollars into this again?"
Advertising? I know many geocachers that have said they may be nearing a point to look for a new gps unit. The other (non-Garmin) units are getting better, and are made for geocaching. If Garmin stabs us in the back why stay with them? Only time can tell. Hopefully their customer service for the website is better than the service for their products or they are in trouble.
Are there benefits? Of course. There are those that will have another outlet. Some are never happy with the way things go and like to have other options. Competition means more innovation, and faster changes in the market. New ideas will pop up and people will move them into the market faster. Customer service becomes more important.
Do I worry about the future, no. I do not think it is in the cards for opencaching to take down geocaching. If it is free and intends to be a free service, I do not think they can make money in a corporate environment that will keep it alive for 10+ years. If they become a paid site, what is the advantage over the existing service?
My prediction with only having had a cursory look of the site: It will be the most successful of the non Geocaching.com sites. I see many that are disgruntled going over there, and people that want to protect their cache sites cross listing their caches. I do not see a group where caching is a side venture to sell gps being more successful than a group thats living depends on success.
Just my 2 cents from the porch.