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.


First peek into the map warper project

Pre-pre-alpha and so likely to change from day to day, or break, here’s the project I started a while ago and have been working on getting usable, but you should be able to have a play on this sneak peek at least. It’s an open source map georectifier / warper, written in Ruby-on-Rails and using GDAL, Mapserver, and OpenLayers, and it’s provisionally called “Map Warper”. It can be found here:

first peek at new opensource map rectifier

Inspired by Metacarta’s Map Rectifier, which I have written about here and here, it was originally primarily planned to be able to support the WMS plugin I developed for the JOSM editor, and also to assist OpenStreetMap surveyors who collect and want to use their own ground control points. (The other driving force was the desire for me to use some fine out of copyright maps and make a free geodataset of Roman Britain, and historical features in general)

It will have additional features in the near future, such as enabling TileCache for WMS-C/TMS, export to Google style tiles, GeoRSS and KML, amongst other things. As mentioned above, it is still unstable and in active development, so things will change and your data probably will be deleted!

We’re looking for a nice name for it, and a nice logo would be good too!

GpsMid j2me online midlet utility

Heres a little online utility to help make custom j2me GpsMid midlets for your phone. GpsMid is a vector based tracker and viewer of OpenStreetMap data, I’ve covered it some more here, it’s rather good.

I like how you can search for streets and places, and it adds it as a virtual waypoint to help you navigate to that street. It also has good zooming support.

For my phone Nokia 6023i, I choose the no-obex option, and turn the routing off (it’s not quite working correctly for me).

Code is available on request, written with python, it’s designed to run the java conversion on the server. However, Java is quite memory intensive, and my host (dreamhost) hasn’t enough to run it. Offers glady received 🙂