Garmin vs Geocaching.com

The recent release of the Garmin Chirp certainly left me wondering what was happening between Garmin and Geocaching.com, but I hadn’t considered the following theory posted on the gps.org.nz forums:

Garmin may be preparing to launch their own geocaching website

It’s suggested that Garmin might be using the site opencaching.com (not currently active) as a platform to break away from geocaching.com. The proof that they own the domain is certainly there from the original German blog post:

I have it thanks to daytime sleep in night shift work noticed the first time and lo and behold, the site is down right now But according to Whois, the domain registered since September 2009 from Garmin.:

Whois Server: whois.markmonitor.com
Referral URL: http://www.markmonitor.com
Name Server: NS.GARMIN.COM
Name Server: NS2.GARMIN.COM
Status: clientDeleteProhibited
Status: clientTransferProhibited
Status: clientUpdateProhibited
Updated Date: 13-sep-2010
Creation Date: 14-sep-2003
Expiration Date: 14-sep-2012

There is another brief entry that provides some insight into opencaching.com:

First of all Conclusion:
Looks nice, is not ready yet. Too bad.
‘m Curious to see how it goes.
Can I upload my myfinds where pq? Would in fact go to upload their own discoveries. I would rather not, for now.

6. Caches sort works:
One can also the difficulties in 0.1 increments filter.

Geiel. Then almost 3 doses are in any nice places, or only two? 🙂 #

4. 22:36 Clock

“Garmin will under take commercially reasonable efforts to publish, under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License, geocaching data submitted by you to the site

http://www.opencaching.com/ # terms

3. 22:32 Clock
My cache (Uploaded with a GPX file of a cache of my GC) appear to be further edited by me … # edit-geocache/OCMH2C/step1 – the site but not on the Internet Exploder, and Firefox displays correctly.

2. 22:26 Clock

I can sign in with my Garmin account and upload to the fast one of my geocaches GC.com via GPX can.

This is followed by a note: ”
Before we can publish the geocaches you have uploaded, we want you to review the information. Click on a cache, verify the information, add tags, and submit your geocaches to be found by other cachers.

However, the whole system does not seem to work here, I’m not getting unlocked my cache. The upload seems to have worked.

Password change was directly over Garmin.

The gps.org.nz post also points out that Garmin GPSr’s are no longer featured prominently on the geocaching.com site, despite Garmin having the largest number of reviews. Garmin making a play on the geocaching market would certainly explain their sudden realise of the chirp.

The whole concept of a significant player like Garmin taking on geocaching.com is a strange one to me and it will be interesting to see if they actually go through with it. Geocaching.com is such a significant player in the geocaching world, due to that fact that they – essentially – created the hobby. A Garmin caching site might take a small percentage market share but the likelihood is geocaching.com would create significant relationships with other GPS manufacturers and their would be a shift in GPSr favour as a result. I seriously think Garmin, probably motivated by greed, have shot themselves in the foot here. Rather than create a symbiotic relationship they’ve thrown their toys and vowed to take down the giant. … Okay, that might be assuming a little much.

This will be a very good test of consumer loyalty though. Given there are no major complaints (that I’m aware of) with Geocaching.com then there is little motivation for users to switch. It is, after all, the major league of geocaching and anything else is just the minors. I also think Garmin have underestimated the challenge presented by the burgeoning smart phone industry. More and more people are using their iPhones, androids and, my personal favourite, Blackberry’s to hunt caches therefore reducing the need for a dedicated GPSr. So rather than solidify their position they’ve jeopardized it. As the young kids say these days EPIC FAIL!


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  1. CacheChick.Com

    Isn’t Garmin coming out with a smart phone themselves? I seem to remember hearing something about that. It does seem odd that they would try to compete with GC.com … and would it only work with Garmin devices? I don’t see it working out for them, as most of us will stay with GC.com.

    1. cumbyrocks

      Hi CacheChick,

      It’s been reported that Garmin have bowed out of the smartphone race: http://www.engadget.com/2010/11/03/garmin-officially-exits-the-smartphone-business-reports-mixed-q/

      My initial thought was that they would limit Garmincaching to garmin devices but that would seem to be shooting yourself in the other foot as well. I think they’d provide greater functionality for Garmin devices but have it open for all.

      Bigger question for me – would it be a free service?

  2. Maggie "SudsyMaggie" Sudduth

    Interesting thoughts on the matter! Wonder how this will all play out.

  3. Carsten

    I saw Opencaching.com up and running yesterday evening. But what do you call “running”? I would say it is in an early alpha stage, nothing more right now. I can’t believe it was really meant to be online so far. Probably someone just pushed the wrong button a little too early.

    So what to expect when it goes live for real? The major difference to all other listing services is Garmin as GPSr manufacturer. If Garmin starts promoting its own site in the manuals of their devices instead of pointing to Geocaching.com, there will certainly be a significant number of new cachers starting with the Garmin platform instead of Geocaching.com.
    But let’s see the good side: With a *real* competitor (not like those other crappy Opencaching sites) Groundspeak may up the speed of developement at Geocaching.com. Could be good for us then.

    1. cumbyrocks

      I suppose the biggest factor in this is how do new people get into geocaching? From my limited knowledge it seems they get introduced by friends (mostly) but I wouldn’t discount the increasing numbers entering through smartphone usage (including me). People tend to stick with what they know. I’d be more worried about how Garmin might create superior service in a garmin-caching site.

  4. Tony

    Well, there have been and are some major complaints about geocaching.com, but no-one else has stepped yet in a major way to challenge the hegemony. We’ve signed in at opencaching.us and listed one cache (first in Nevada) but have yet to see if they are going to actually advertise, or market the site in any way that could draw more cachers and hence advertisers.

    some GC.com major complaints –

    1) The “badge” promotion. Misguided and did not seem to come from the masses. Not a single cacher in our circle could have predicted that they would roll that out. Wasn’t missed – looks like an Ivory Tower decision. And only pleases the armchair cachers, AFAIC.

    2) Slow, slow slow developer response. C’mon, they’re based in Seattle. Is it too much to ask that they find competent / efficient code warriors? Site updates are sporadic and often break, and don’t even get me started on their poor rollout of the Twitter OAS fix.

    3) Customer “feedback” forums. They’re on their second third party vendor for this functionality, and the response back to ideas has been spotty and not timely.

    4) Phone Apps. The UI keeps changing and the stability suffers with each update.



    1. cumbyrocks

      Hi Tony,

      To clarify my no major complaints comment – from my perspective Geocaching.com is is a good site that has ease of use and a good level of functionality. It is not slow or down for large periods of time. In the general everyday use of it there are no major issues. My version of a major complaint is iPhone 3 upgrades that render the phone so slow it is virtually unusable (funny that just after the launch of iPhone 4…but let’s not get into that). Again, as a service geocaching.com is pretty good (not perfect though).

      For the complaints you’ve outlined, from my limited perspective (again), they are more a case of not being able to please all parties all the time. I’ll point out I share your concern over some of those issues but they are not majors in my mind.

      1. firennice

        Agreed they seem like minor issues

  5. Dan Overes

    This will be very interesting to watch. Frankly, I’m surprised Groundspeak hasn’t either sold out or done an IPO yet — there are a lot of eyeballs there and they obviously have a proven business model having now been around for a decade or so. With smartphones making the game more accessible it is poised for a massive growth explosion and now would be a ripe time to either take over or compete against Groundspeak.

    1. cumbyrocks

      I know that when big money gets involved the game changes but wonder whether those involved in Groundspeak are sufficiently passionate enough that it will delay any significant takeover?

  6. Matt

    The biggest problem with any sort of competition is that data from gc.com is not portable. Whether it be user information, trackables, cache listings, find counts, and all of that stuff, it makes it far more complicated for someone to know where they should go for something.

    GSP having the one and only place is both good and bad. It makes it nice and easy to have everything in one central location where you can log all your finds, keep track of your stats, log/measure trackables, find geocaches, and everything. The bad side of that is that we’re stuck with their rules and guidelines. Things cachers really want seem to go to the wayside a lot of the time and action from the powers that be is very slow. Some of their logic makes no sense and there seems to be a disconnect between what they (and sometimes Jeremy himself) wants and what cachers actually want.

    Regardless, I guess it’s a matter of seeing what Garmin chooses to do. It would be nice to have some sort of system to keep the madness of cross-site listing to a minimum.

  7. Hans

    No major complaints with gc.com/groundspeak? You have to be kidding! Groundspeak if any are the greedy ones. They claim exclusive copyright on what is provided by their users and meanwhile the are not open to input on any important issues at all.

    1. cumbyrocks

      Hi Hans,

      Strong words there! To clarify my point, as I did for Tony above – from my perspective Geocaching.com is is a good site that has ease of use and a good level of functionality. It is not slow or down for large periods of time. In the general everyday use of it there are no major issues. My version of a major complaint is iPhone 3 upgrades that render the phone so slow it is virtually unusable (funny that just after the launch of iPhone 4…but let’s not get into that). Again, as a service geocaching.com is pretty good (not perfect though).

      For the complaints you’ve outlined, from my limited perspective (again), they are more a case of not being able to please all parties all the time. I’ll point out I share your concern over some of those issues but they are not majors in my mind.

  8. GSV

    The question is, will the ‘disenfranchised’ submit their rejected gc.com caches onto the Garmin site, especially if the publication is automaic? What will that do to the quality/location/etc of those new caches and will it skew the perception of the site?

    The only thing I’d say re geocaching.com is the tight control they hold over global geocache data: a necessity for the business model they use, but perhaps tighter than many in the sport would prefer. Everything else on the site has grown from cacher and landowner/authority requirements over the years and has done very well for the volume of traffic: users, caches, logs, and images.

  9. Pazifik

    Main concern in the times after the “war” will be: Fee or free?

    Regarding the past – GC obviously not willing to sell – most likely a hostile takeover will now take place. As i estimate the financial power of GC significantly lower, it will be just a question of time, once Garmin launches a website much closer to the needs of cachers – including the speed of implementation.
    I can see noch chance for GC to survive that war if no major Garmin-faults happen. Effect on GC will be (within 1 year?):

    • losing market leadership
    • reduction of lackeys
    • slowing down to even lower performance than now
    • massive reduction of customers
    • undersellung or bankruptcy

    Main question (see above): Will opencaching.com be free once GC has surrendered?

    1. cumbyrocks

      I’d be interested to know, from your point of view, exactly what it is that Garmin could produce in an opencaching website that would have such a dramatic impact on groundspeak?

      On the whole the geocaching.com product is a good one with no major problems (see my explanation of no major problems in replies above) and people will be unlikely to leave a place that has 1,000,000+ caches for another that has considerably less.

      1. GSV

        I wonder if Garmin really understands Groundspeak’s working model. From the outside it looks like a duck floating along but you can’t see the feet paddling madly underneath! The geocaching.com listing service relies on a) the Groundspeak staff and site functionality; and b) a global network of volunteers to ensure cache submissions are NOT going to get cachers or caching into trouble. (Before anyone responds, please reflect on that point.) Both of those legs are required for a successful site.

      2. cumbyrocks

        That’s a great point GSV. There is no way they could gain enough volunteers or employ enough staff to produce something like GC.com in a short period of time. So the sacrifice would probably be in quality of cache review. Of course the quick way around this in the beginning would be to provide some kind of bulk upload tool so the disenfranchised could easily transfer all their GC.com listings to also be on opencaching.com, automatically providing them with a multitude of quality lisitings. Is there anyway they could do something like geocaching.com.au and bring the listings over themselves? If they could pull together listings from all of the caching sites they would have a big drawcard for cachers.

  10. CacheChick.com

    I’m curious, would they be able to setup a GC.com like site that would work ONLY for garmin devices? I’m just wondering if they’d try to shut out everyone using non-Garmin …. Not sure if it would be possible from a website alone to make it work only with Garmin GPS, but I can’t imagine they’d add utilities that would make it easy for us to use other types instead.

    If they did try to force in limitations like that, it would only further encourage a lot of folks to stick with GC.com

  11. Cache Mania

    I don’t think I’d call this an epic fail. What does Garmin want to do? Sell more devices. They tricked me into upgrading for a 62s. I wanted to try out the chirp and there doesn’t seem to be a firmware upgrade coming for the Colorado.

    What about all those people who use Magellan’s or Delorme’s? Imagine a website that is open and allows these folks to use it. Garmin could release all kinds of features on the site that these units can’t use. Even iPhone’s and Blackberries. Can Garmin use the site to make a compelling case for using a Garmin GPS for geocaching?

    We just created a coin for our online store – http://www.cacheatnight.com and in order to get a tracking number we have to pay geocaching.com 50 cents per coin. I sure would like an open alternative to that. Alternatively pressure might get GC.com to lower their price.

    The restrictions on data over at GC.com are epic. Just about the only thing you are allowed to republish is a GC number. Openness is what is required.

    1. guido

      GC does not allow chirp only caches. I had difficulty to post my chirp cache. First it was chirp only, it was rejected.
      No I have a cache box and it was accepted.

      Than I came up with the idea of a chirp only site, http://www.chirp-cache.com is a simple site and will host chirp only.
      Maybe when opencaching.com will come online, my site is not necessary any more.


    2. John

      There already is….Geokrety offers free tracking numbers.

  12. Chelsie

    Thank you very much for this information. I am researching this topic for a term paper that I am writing for school and this will help a lot.

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