This week, Garmin officially launched their new community site, OpenCaching.com, for creating, sharing and finding geocaches around the world. Although Garmin likes to say the site is just another option, OpenCaching will basically compete head to head with Groundspeak's popular Geocaching.com. Garmin hopes to distinguish themselves through ease of use, simple navigation and by creating a truly community driven site.
Garmin is hoping to fuel the growth of geocaching by offering the OpenCaching functionality for free, making it accessible to a wider audience. In comparison, Groundspeak offers basic Geocaching.com membership for free, but if you want to access advanced features, such as hiding your own cache or downloading GPX files, you have to become a premium member at $30 per year.
Beyond the free angle, Garmin is trying to emphasize distinct advanced functionality such as the ability to quantify the "Awesomeness" of a cache in addition to the standard size, terrain and difficulty. Cachers themselves can in turn give peer reviews along each of these classifications for a true community representation of a particular cache.
As expected, not many caches have been registered yet on OpenCaching. A quick search in my postcode brings up zero, where over on Geocaching.com there are 3000 plus caches listed. The real appeal of Geocaching.com is the number of registered caches and users from around the world, all using the same platform. The question is, can Garmin eventually reach this critical mass?
I listened to the live Geocaching Podcast last night where Garmin's blogger and PR man Jake Jacobsen responded to questions about the OpenCaching launch. Jake said that Garmin is not positioning the site as the only possible destination, but rather as another option for geocachers and one that is fully driven by the community.
With the company's history of making GPS devices for a wide range of activities (cycling, driving, hiking, fishing, etc.), Garmin hopes to now introduce the activity to even more people. Garmin wants to open a direct line of communication with the geocaching community.
Rather than try to populate OpenCaching with thousands of caches before release, Garmin wanted to lift the curtain and let the community build the database from the ground up. The company hopes, of course, that people will geocache with a Garmin but the site is open for use with any GPS device. Supposedly in the last 36 hours alone, over 2000 caches have been registered.
You will be able to import all of your hides and finds into OpenCaching from other geocaching websites, so you don't have to feel as though your are completely starting over. Only cache owners will be able to import their hides, however, to keep someone from taking credit for other people's caches. The caches will be shown as cross listed with other sites to hopefully help avoid confusion.
Three types of caches are currently supported on OpenCaching, single, multi, and puzzle, but Garmin will alow you to tag caches with keywords. These keywords will be used as a way to conduct more detailed searches for a type of cache in the future.
Alongside the website, Garmin has released an open API, giving third party developers access to OpenCaching information in order to create mashups, mobile applications or connections with other sites. In response to the OpenCaching announcement this week, Geocaching.com stated their own plans to release an open API in the future as well.
Jake said that Garmin did not currently plan to use OpenCaching as an advertising platform for their devices but they may have strategic "product placement" in How To videos, etc. Garmin also has no plans to directly copy the Trackables or Geocoins from Geocaching.com, but is instead looking to bring their own fun and unique interactive initiatives and events to the community.
So what do all you geocachers think- will you use Garmin's OpenCaching website? Do you think it will divide or help grow the geocaching community?
Interesting side note- Jake has never logged a geocaching find himself!