Is It Time For Add-on Packs On Geocaching.com?

Groundspeak’s recent announcement on the removal of Google Maps from Geocaching.com has kicked off much debate about the cost of a Premium Membership.

In short, Google Maps have started charging heavy users of its embedded Google Maps (like those previously found on Geocaching.com) and this was going to make the continued use of Google Maps somewhat challenging. It has also resulted in an outpouring by paying Geocaching.com members keen to see an increase in the price of Premium Membership to ensure their continued access to Google Maps.

Currently, Premium Membership is a simplistic all-or-nothing offer – and the discussions over the Google Maps indicate that this is quite a polarising issue. For some, it is make-or-break, and the removal of Google Maps functionality has already caused a number of cachers to indicate that they are not going to renew their membership. Others seem unconcerned and are, in fact, happy with the move to OpenStreetMap – I certainly fall in this camp.

However, this got me thinking. Is it time for Groundspeak to look at providing some add-on membership packs? Consider the current Premium Membership a base subscription. When purchasing a membership, it would be good to be able to buy certain add-on packs that provide additional functionality, or increased capacity on services already offered as part of the Premium package.

For example, this Google Maps issue clearly indicates that there is a market for members who are prepared to help cover the Google Maps API charges that Groundspeak will incur. It is quite unreasonable to expect all Premium Members to cover the costs of those that want to use Google Maps. I certainly don’t want my Premium Membership to go up, possibly a significant amount, just to keep Google Maps functionality on Geocaching.com.

Therefore, it should be possible for members to purchase an add-on pack, that provides Google Maps API functionality for their account.

There are a couple of other add-ons that I would be very interested in seeing Groundspeak offer:

  1. Increased Pocket Query limits – the current limit per Pocket Query is 500 caches by email. This was great a few years back, but the explosion in cache placements over the last three or four years has resulted in the email PQ limit becoming woefully inadequate. I would love to see add-on packs that enabled you to upgrade your account to higher email PQ limits, such as 1000 or 2000 caches. I’d have absolutely no problem paying for this as long as it was cheaper than the current option of purchasing a second Premium account to accomplish this.
  2. Increased API daily limit – the current API daily limit is around 6000 caches. For whatever reason, some cachers may want to upgrade their limit to something higher. An added benefit of a Groundspeak API add-on pack could be a faster server so that the caches download faster than the current existing API allows.

I believe growth in the different ways we cache and use Geocaching.com means that the current Premium Membership is no longer able to satisfy all users. The time has come for Groundspeak to separate out its base Premium Membership, and provide add-on packs for expanding specific capabilities or to cover third-party charges, such as the Google Maps API.




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  1. Pete

    I like the idea.

  2. CraigRat

    I agree with both points 1 and 2!

    But especially point #1, the costs of sending out 2000 caches in a zip file is negligible. 500 might have been fine in years gone by, but not now. And I don’t want to log on to the site to just download PQ’s to get the 1000 limit ones…

    All I need from the site is PQ’s and a page to log finds on, I don’t use anything else on the site, I don’t even use the maps as there’s better maps and search tools elsewhere 🙂

  3. Eddy

    Is there indeed a need to increase the PQ limit for e-mail? With the API, there isn’t a need for it anymore and most of the popular gc tools have implemented the API. I would rather see an increase of the PQ limit in general in order to prevent that one needs to define a large number of PQs in order to get a region covered.

  4. rediguana

    Just want to clarify that the Pocket Query example (1) doesn’t need to be limited to just email queries, but should apply proportionally to download PQs as well.

  5. Dave

    I would have assumed the 500 cache limit has more to do with some email providers not accepting attachments of a certain size, and the 1000 limit was more to do with the cost (in computer resources) of generating PQs on their side.

    I would be for tiered membership, I’d pay extra for larger PQs and Google maps.

  6. rediguana

    @Dave – the question being whether it is cheaper to run 1x 1000 query, or 2x 500. We don’t know that so we can only speculate.

  7. Chris

    Nice idea. I for one would certainly look at the add-ons available and pick and choose those that I felt were worthwhile.

    I wouldn’t be happy, however, if features that would normally be expected as per normal progress and technological advancement were suddenly offered as paid add-ons above the normal $30 membership though, as that would simply be a means of increasing the membership cost, which (correct me if I’m wrong) is locked in at the amount you paid the first time you subscribed(?).

    Do you think there’d be more of an administrative overhead by offering a variety of add-on packs? I don’t necessarily think so, but I don’t know how these things work behind the scenes.

  8. rediguana

    @Chris – there would definitely be implementation costs associated with creating a new add-on, but of course this would also be offset by the revenue generated from the add-on. And of course it would be creating a new revenue stream. The only other way for Groundspeak to grow membership revenue currently, is solely to grow the number of Premium Members.

    I agree that the base Premium Membership should remain largely as it is now. The add-on packs are more about incorporating functionality that has costs associated with it (e.g. Google Maps), or expanding the default PM capacity (e.g. larger PQs).

    1. Chris

      I guess I don’t necessarily think that larger capacity pocket queries ought to be a paid add-on, or at least I’d be concerned that the offering of such an add-on is just a way of charging for something that should simply be given to the existing paying members. Before you jump on my use of the word “given” though – what I’m trying to get at is that technological limits, which is arguably the reason PQs are limited at all, advance all the time.

      If we were to go back 20 years and be using 9600 baud modems, and servers from, well, the dark ages, then we’d have much tighter limits than now, but you would probably not expect to be paying add-ons to have increased those limits to what we have now, right? You’d just expect over time for those limits to be increased as technology advances. Kind of like ISPs giving you more data allowance and higher speeds – if we extrapolated out what we used to pay for data and speed 20 years ago, we’d all be paying thousands per month for our home broadband!

      Am I making sense?

      So anyway, yeah good idea, so long as one can be sure it’s not an excuse to charge for features that are natural progression anyway.

  9. Dodger

    I don’t see the big deal over the mapping changes. Matters not to me. Actually, I’m amazed at the controversy over it.

    $30 a year is plenty for me. I wouldn’t pay any more than that. As far as add-ons, again, personally, I don’t have any need much beyond what we get now.

  10. Dodger

    So my question is…

    You’re willing to pay beyond $30 a year if additional features were an option?

    1. Chris

      I’d pay extra for unlimited (within reason) API access, so that I can have GSAK download/update all NZ caches without having to frig around with PQs or have to update in sections over multiple days. Despite having a paid up GSAK, that’s the reason I don’t really use it yet.

      I think there are geocachers covering a wide spectrum as far as what they are willing to pay. Some refuse to pay a cent, some happily pay the $30 but wouldn’t pay any more, and some consider that the $30 per year is a pittance compared to all the other expenses of the sport (eg. petrol).

      But I wouldn’t pay for expanded PQs because I feel that if it’s possible, it should just be done for all premium members within their current subscription.

    2. kjwx

      Yes, definitely – though it would need to be a better add-on than bigger PQs. After all, GC.com’s annual US$30 Premium fee is still the cheapest gym membership I’ve ever had; even if I pay a bit extra for access to better equipment, I figure I’d still be saving myself a bundle.

  11. Orkidea

    i think its a great idea and its been suggested in the forums, unfortunately it seems that Groundspeak is so much against it that it promoted them to ban certain people that supported it.

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