OpenStreetMap

Google Map Maker comes to the USA

Posted by Dion Dock on 20 April 2011 in English (English)

Google is finally making their Map Maker available to the USA for the first time, http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2011/04/add-your-local-knowledge-to-map-with.html.

Google says they'll post your changes quickly...after review. I'm curious as to whether their review is by a human or by software (e.g. 5 people changing a tag probably indicates something is wrong with the tag). I corrected their map once (missing onramp to the Fremont Bridge in Portland OR) and it took them four months to review it.

I'm left to ponder what this might mean for OSM. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I have a memory of Linus T. being asked about Linux vs Windows. His answer was something to the effect of, we don't care about Windows because Linux will crush it eventually. So maybe this is good news, Google can do whatever they want, and eventually their "location" energy will run out and they'll go back to search results. ;) Or maybe this is good news because the goal of open mapping is to provide easier access to more map data. Win again.

I do think it is inconsistent of Google to claim that it simply giving the world access to its data--in this case they're creating it.

These are my ideas roughly sketched out tonight. What do you think?

Location: Pearl District, Portland, Multnomah County, Oregon, United States of America

Comment from olejorgenb on 20 April 2011 at 05:42

Well, I'm against crowdsource-services that steal* your data in general, and Map Maker seems too fall under that category(?). Hopefully it won't take too many potential contributors away from OSM.

*At a minimum I should be able to export my own data.

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Comment from ToeBee on 20 April 2011 at 06:36

I actually used it a little tonight in the spirit of "know thy enemy". Honestly I'm not all that impressed. I guess as a POI adder it is a decent tool. The tagging interface is more refined than anything we have in OSM. There are a lot of presets for most of the fields and the presentation is pretty clean. But editing geometry of roads is just downright painful. Unless I'm missing something in my OSM trained mind, you can either edit intersections as point features or road segments as line features but not both at the same time (like to straighten a road over several blocks) Oh and any object you touch is locked from further editing (including more edits by you) until the edit is reviewed.

"meh"

Unfortunately the sheer name recognition factor of "Google" will probably attract people in droves. If OSM happened to have a few million dollars sitting around I bet we could do an effective PR campaign. Google has stirred the "citizen mapper" pot. If we could now say "yeah... but we're better!" I bet we could attract a bunch of new users. How much does a full page ad in the NY times cost? :)

@olejorgenb: But that's just the thing. It isn't your data. As soon as you hit the "Save" button, it becomes Goolge's data and you have nothing to do with it anymore.

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Comment from Vincent de Phily on 20 April 2011 at 13:06

I think we can never compete (and we should compete, for the sake of openness) against the google brand name : we'll never be as well known. Competing on the openness argument is a tough sell, it's just too insubstancial for some people.

But we can definitely compete on technical merit. We should advertise our strong points, like specialized maps for anything and everything, device support (like non-connected satnavs), and blazing-fast applications like marble. We should work on some low-hanging improvements, like better nominatim-type search, world-accessible page showing a trail with events, easyer-to-use "signpost on the map with my busines's info" api, etc. We should clear the misconception that we're "small and irrelevant" by mentioning the number of active contributors and links to well-known actors like mapquest and bing.

...lots of work and I dont even know how to do half of it myself :/ But I'm confident we'll get there bit by bit, and I'm convinced we must get there, because OSM is inherently better than anything google will ever want to provide.

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Comment from compdude on 23 April 2011 at 20:33

OSM is better! But the fact that a widely recognized company like Google is using our concept of providing open-source maps means that now we have more competition. We need to publicize OSM more so that it attracts more people.

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