May 05, 2011

Google Map Maker in the U.S.

Google Maps has a tool called MapMaker which until recently was primarily used for countries for which there are not good maps. This obviously is problematic for Google if it wants to provide mapping services in these countries. The idea behind MapMaker is that users with on the ground experience or working from satellite imagery can trace roads, label towns, etc.

I highly recommend checking out Google MapMaker Pulse where you can watch in real-time (or close to real-time) as MapMaker edits are performed.

One of the results is that usable and digital maps are becoming available for many places for the first time. It is a great example of how user-generated data can be leveraged. It is also a great example of potential issues of power/control of maps, i.e., users are generating the edits but who "owns" the resulting map? MapMaker is NOT opensource like OpenStreetMap. It also highlights how a multi-billion dollar corporation can leverage free/donated labor to enhance a product they use to generate income. But of course, it makes the free Google Maps we use more useful. Clearly, tricky and complicated issues all around.

In any case, Google recently extended the MapMaker program into countries that already have good coverage, including the U.S. This means that users can add their own insights to Google Maps. There's a review process but it seems that edits are almost immediately entered into the system.

Edits to Broomfield, CO City Manager Office as seen in Google MapMaker Pulse

Edits to Broomfield, CO City Manager Office as seen in Google Maps
(note, that it indicates unverified edits but it was available with 15 minutes of the edit)

Google pulse is mesmerizing--

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