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    Thursday
    Dec082011

    Opencaching.com at one year

    We stand at a year.  One year of opencaching.com.  Where did it come from? What is its status? and were are we going?  I thought I would take the time to look at it.

    Where did it come from?

    There are a few thoughts, a few ideas as to why it came into being.  Why would a for profit company make a free service.  Well to sell more GPS units.   The general consensus is that they were upset in Groundspeaks Geomate Jr.  A small device with no purpose but to push you to caches that were preloaded (later they added a device where you could add more caches to it).  In one way I can see the worry with Garmin.  Groundspeak is not a competitor.  Even though it was on the fringe, would it be the end.  What if groundspeak pushed for another, larger one.  I am sure it was a scary thought, for Garmin, Magellen, and other companies. Would there be another competitor. 

    There were rumblings at Groundspeak when the Garmin Chirp (tm) showed up.  I know it annoyed Jeremy and a few others.  They had tossed the idea of something similar to them a while ago.  So having a similar product pop up was annoying.  However it was the fact that something that was really made for geocaching, was kept behind the scenes and quiet.  Who knows the reasoning, or who had the idea first, but it was odd that it was a surprise that it

    Some suggest that because almost all hand held units are Garmin in geocaching circles that they jumped in to grab the market.  To keep a hold of it.  Perhaps, however there is a flaw in that.  Almost every person I know that owns a handheld GPS either has cached once or twice with it or not at all.  Cachers are a very small number.  Tens of thousands of units are sold every year.  Hunters, fisherman, back country enthusiasts, search and rescue, ATVers, scouts and governments buy those units.  Many decide to try this out, but it is not the main purpose of the their purchase.   However Garmin may have thought it a market to slip into.  Long term.

    Lackeys and volunteers were slightly worried.  What would you think?  A company with $3.5 billion in sales, deciding that they want to compete.  Groundspeak does not release its number, however I am guessing they would be happy with 1% of that.

    Then the name of the new site showed up.  Opencaching.com  They have said online that they did not steal the name.  That is true.  The name, and website were available, and they grabbed it. They also say they were in discussion with the opencaching network.  I do not believe that any of the managers of the websites ever said they were contacted.  In fact most stated that they were never contacted, and they were surprised.  So though not flat out wrong and prohibited, it did slap the faces of those other websites. 

    Ironically, it was the people that support and push the other websites that wanted another site.  The forum discussions on those sites were not pleased in the theft or slap in the face of the Opencaching network.

    What would Garmin do?  What would they come up with? A dozen different ideas were pouring out.  How would it be managed?  And would it be better?

    The arrival of Opencaching.com

    You could not believe the collective sigh of relief that I heard from Groundspeak employees and volunteers, when the site was released.   The money that could have been dumped into it, did not appear to have been spent.  Things were buggy, problems filled the site.  Enough that many people who went to visit, did not want to return.

    Bugs are expected.  Like every site we did expect the rough edges.  However there were a number of bugs, some of them serious that should not have been in place.   These were only small issues compared to the core of the site. 

    There was no review.    So a number of horrible caches appeared.  Caches in wilderness areas, forests and parks where they are not allowed, caches rejected on geocaching.com for many other reasons.  All found their way to the opencaching.com site.  To be fair, the fast majority were fine, but many were listed that should not have been.

    Eventually they added peer reviewing to the site.  Then you are at the mercy of others.  Did you follow the process?  I have seen caches next to others, commercial, and other problems.  Worse people were denying things for dumb reasons.  People could not get some caches listed because someone just said no.  That happens on the geocaching.com site.  A reviewer may say no, but they are to point out the reasons, and you have an appeal.  Here it seemed final.  Some were trying to do their best in reviewing the caches, and yet some were just tossing their thoughts, without event thinking.

    On another front there are many that love caching, that have been removed from the geocaching.com site with bans or suspensions.  Forums turned into how evil and horrible geocaching.com was, and bickering about the other site.  This was going to be the future.

    Yet there was nothing new.  Tweaks of course.  The little radar for awesomeness, terrain, difficulty and size.  However still the same type of site, in fact there are fewer cache types.  Of course there are no Wherigo or Earthcaches as those are property of Groundspeak and GSA.  Multi, Puzzle, and Traditional, eventually they added Virtual.  There are no events yet.  When you make your cache page, you cannot place photos, or in your logs.

    Caches

    Ultimately what counts is the caches and their visits.  Well there are caches.  I have mentioned before there just are not many unique caches.  It has been a year, and there currently are about 19,500 caches.  If we look at caches that are unique only to geocaching.com.  To compare there are are over 300,000 more active caches this year than last.  That does not count archived caches from both sites, but it gives you an idea of the numbers between the two.

    There were a few large jumps in caches.  Obviously there was a jump in the first two months.  There were 8000 that were added during that period. Another month during a contest about 4000 were added. So during the other nine months there were 8000 caches listed.

    Total numbers of caches at opencaching.com

    Some state those number are good, compared to when geocaching started.  Geocaching had 7,000 after the first year, so nearly 20,000 caches was good. Yet if you break out the unique caches, caches that are only on that website, you have 1500.  Not a really great number. 

    I have one cache there, yet it is in the center of a populous area.  I created it on the first week.  Yet in that entire time I have had one log there.  It has been disappointing.  I have heard that from a number of others. We place caches to be found, really we place them to be logged.  If there are no logs it is disappointing. 

    Another issues is people placing caches on multiple sites is that you can ignore those that are not "important".  I know of one that is gone, or has been gone for a while.  Yet still it is listed on the site.  Mostly because there are not people logging dnf's and the owner just ignores it.   That could pose an issue in the future.

    Where are we going?

    To be honest I don't know.  Geocaching.com will continue to move forward.  Just like it always has.  What happens to Opencaching is more difficult to figure out.   How committed are the people pushing the Garmin site?  How much money do they put into it. Technically it is not very expensive.  Server space that they already own, bandwidth, a programmer or two, free time from a marketing person. No one knows the goals or timeframe they have.

    It needs to find a niche.  What that is I don't know. It can't be the place of anti-Groundspeak.  It is like being anti-Microsoft.  You have to have something that helps you stand out.  Or you just have people arguing in the corner, crying about how evil the other guy is.   Trying to find their future is tricky.

    At the moment I would say they are being left behind. They have some interesting ideas, they have tried a number of different things, but eventually they need to find something that makes them stand out. They need to grow, and be unique, but I don't see that right now.

    Only the future will tell.

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