Google: Give us the world. We’ll give you a web map.

Google has released MapMaker. Now you can fill Google’s databases with information about the world that they do not already have, and for your efforts, you get a map on a website that you cannot download to your computer, or put in your school’s magazine, or make a paper tourist map from, and you would probably get more spam (“targeted advertisements”), all for your hard work!

I’m pretty sure this software was what Michael Smith was talking about last year about India. The main shift, the main point that was missed by that last post by O’Reilly is that no GPS were used, it’s all about local knowledge on top of areal imagery.

So MapMaker, a nice idea, it’s an attempt by them to fill in the gaps of their maps, by getting people to do the work for them. At the moment, it’s mostly open for some small islands, around the world like Cyprus and Antiqua, and larger countries like Pakistan. (edited to separate Pakistan from smaller islands, thanks Golod!)

But, contribute all you like, you will never own your data you make, and will be held responsible if it’s wrong.

You will be stuck with the default road-centred view of the world that Google decides works best (it’s nice cartography, it is just inflexible). No exporting the data we can make, no seeing the map as a non driver may like to look at it, no footpaths, no cyclepaths, no special Greek language map of Northern Cyprus, and no making maps in countries that do not allow it, of course! Sjors thinks that it must have been rushed through as if it must be a mistake that Google is so closed.

However, have a look – it’s nice to be able to keep an eye on an area, moderation works nicely, and feedback about edits is well thought out. There some intelligent feature snapping going on too, and map edits are rendered quite quickly onto a transparent overlay, giving good feedback – but, I always thought that I was doing something for free, for very little reward. Afterall, Google pay Teleatlas and other mapping agencies / companies for their data… soon they may not have to.

Now, this posts title is a bit ungenerous! Google maps are not just web maps – as Nash writes, he’s excited about getting Pakistan on the map. “Imagine being able to access full maps on your cellphone, on an Android application, Location Based Services, local business search”. Unless there are alternatives in these spheres, and not just mapping, Google will dominate.

Of course, OpenStreetMap is an alternative and comparison of choice, with it’s Free and Open Source approach leading to better quality, nicer more flexible maps, and a good active community. With OpenStreetMap, You can download the data and do stuff with it, you can make a tourist map with it, you can put it in your school book, etc etc. Blinkgeo asks “what about openstreetmap?”, and hopes to see Google enabling export of the data. Steve Coast writes some more about mapmaker and openstreetmap. And highlights how Google is competing against the big data providers now.

Perhaps the big G will spark something new and creative in OSM in response? Perhaps mapmakers users will demand more for their work, or better tools? We will wait and see. Perhaps people will be happy spending time for minimal reward on data that will never be theirs?

Perhaps if making a is ok if it’s made fun enough, made into a game? Troq writes that they would love to take part in openstrettmap if there was some kind of a gaming competition around it.

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7 thoughts on “Google: Give us the world. We’ll give you a web map.

  1. It’s a nice idea, yes, but it’s not Google’s good idea. And the data that you add to the map is Google’s not yours. Lawyers in Pakistan, look at the terms of use and licences for the data.

    It’s mainly supplying Google with map data, not you, not your companies, not your schools, not your charities. You cannot print a map of the streets you and your friends make using map maker, and put them in a book or leaflet, or city guide. OK, you will be able to SEE the streets on Google’s maps on the internet. You cannot share those streets you made with anyone else. You cannot share the lines your drawn with individuals, your town, government or charity of your choice, you cannot sell those lines you drew. Lawyers of Pakistan, look at the terms of use, and the licence for Map Maker.

    It’s like singing in a music band, that has a very very popular song. Although you don’t have to pay to sing in it you have to spend quite a lot of your time. But, in return, you don’t get any of the music on paper to take with you, you cannot take home the instruments, you cannot get to sing the same song in another band downtown, or on the street, or in another country. All you get is the ability to hear the song you sang on the radio.

    Or like writing about your specialist subject to Wikipedia, and not being allowed to share what you wrote with anyone, or anywhere, and you are stuck with Wikipedia claiming ownership of your work, and yourself being liable if it’s wrong, and denied other users the ability to select and copy the text on that page. etc. etc.

  2. I agree Tim if there is one thing we can take from Mapmaker is that great usability has a significant influence on the uptake of a social/collaborative project. Time for an OSM facelift?

  3. Pingback: “State of the Map” Day 2: Is OSM the Fight Club of the GeoWeb | Off the Map - Official Blog of FortiusOne

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