OpenStreetMap

OSM gets some new competition: Google Map Maker

Posted by compdude on 5 May 2011 in English (English)

I don't know if you've heard already, but I recently noticed that Google introduced its Map Maker into the US. Unfortunately, I think it's kind of a bad imitation of OSM. Though it follows much of the same concept as OSM, I noticed some shortcomings to it:

* You have to get your edits reviewed before it appears on the map. Also, if you edit a road that connects to a road that hasn't been reviewed, it won't even let you edit that road, which can be kind of annoying.

* The UI is not as user-friendly as Potlatch2. It seems to take a few extra clicks to go from just browsing/ moving around and selecting roads/ other items.

* When tested on an old computer, Map Maker was really, really slow. Potlatch 2 is way faster (though it does lag a little) than Map Maker, meaning P2 runs smoothly on a wider range of computers.

Though there are these shortcomings to Google Map Maker, there are a few things I like about it. For example, the road designations may be easier to understand by users in the US as it is actually concieved in the USA rather than Great Britain.

Also, google map maker is more well known than OSM, meaning it may attract more attention and steal the limelight from OSM. I don't want this to happen, so I want to spread awareness for OSM by maybe even placing ads on google maps. THat would be killer!

Comment from JoshD on 5 May 2011 at 18:11

I'd totally agree about awareness, and encourage everyone to contact their local newspapers for interviews or editorials, and contact local interest groups like HOAs, cyclist/trail/hiking/pedestrian advocacy groups, and local government organizations. There's lots of potential out there, but we need to get the word to everyone!

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Comment from craigloftus on 5 May 2011 at 19:00

A shortcoming you've missed is the inability to reuse data created with Map Maker; when contributing to Map Maker you're giving your time to Google and only them.

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Comment from compdude on 5 May 2011 at 21:21

@craigloftus do you mean that once you add the data in MapMaker, it becomes "owned" by Google and thereby copyrighted by them?

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Comment from Vincent de Phily on 6 May 2011 at 09:07

I think OSM is a product that is in most core ways supperior to GoogleMaps. The main (huge) drawback is the lack of satellite and street view and I don't see how that can be fixed, but the rest is either as good, better, or can be improved. One thing I'd love to see improved to GoogleMap's quality is "share your trip planning, with custom POIs and on an anonymous url" feature. Nominatim needs to get better, too.

The other thing we need to keep working on, my friends, is every-day pervasive PR :
* Wear OSM HVV or Tshirt when mapping
* Use a specialized app to look at the map on your desktop and phone: I use http://edu.kde.org/marble/ and got a lot of "Wow, what maps are you using ? They're fast !" comments
* Show off locations where OSM data is better than $CLOSED_MAP_DATA
* Mention open.mapquest.com and bing, since they're more likely to be known
* Mention all the specialized maps and use cases that $CLOSED_MAP_PROVIDER just won't provide/enable/permit
* Mention the army of contributors and how easy/fun it is to join in (do a demo !)
* etc...

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Comment from compdude on 6 May 2011 at 16:05

@Vincent de Phily: Your ideas are great. I think we should incorporate all of them!

There are a few other problems/ shortcomings with OSM, though, but those can be fixed quite easily.

* We definitely need to increase awareness of OSM; we could easily do that by advertising on Google Maps. I think we need to advertise right at the bottom of Google Maps in the ad bar with something like "Tired of waiting for your Map Maker edits to be reviewed? Try OpenStreetMap." That would be a GREAT way to increase awareness for OSM. From there, it would just be "word-of-mouth."

* We need a routing/ directions program on the main OSM webpage. There is only a search bar right now, but I'm sure a lot of people have created routing programs. We just need to pick the best one and post it on here.

* We also need an app on smartphones so people can view OSM on their iPhone, Blackberry, Android, Windows Phone, etc. I tried to view the OSM website on an iPhone in its Safari web browser, and it didn't quite display right--I couldn't even zoom in or move around.

* Also, I've noticed a bug in Mapnik with displaying the layers for secondary, tertiary, residential, and trunk roads. Primary roads and motorways display fine, but we just need to fix the other roads. This shouldn't be that hard.

* The map legend needs to be updated. I've noticed that a few features have changed their appearance recently (ie Military reservation and nature reserves), but the legend hasn't been updated to reflect those changes.

Though these are a few shortcomings of OSM, I think that if the OSM developers just put a little time and effort into fixing these things, we would have a darn good map. I might write up something in my wiki with suggestions for improving OSM.

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Comment from SamatJain on 6 May 2011 at 20:10

> A shortcoming you've missed is the inability to reuse data created with Map Maker; when
> contributing to Map Maker you're giving your time to Google and only them.

That's a tad misleading.

You created your content — of course you own it! You're not giving it to "only" them; there is nothing stopping you from entering data into both Google Maps and OpenStreetMap.

The difference between Google and OpenStreetMap (even with the more powers awarded the OSMF via the new contributors' terms): Google has strict rules and limitations on how you can use their data, and data contributed by others. OpenStreetMap does not — the sky is the limit!

> Though these are a few shortcomings of OSM, I think that if the OSM developers just put a
> little time and effort into fixing these things, we would have a darn good map. I might write
> up something in my wiki with suggestions for improving OSM.

Ideas are cheap. This project needs (as much as any other project) more people doing things… pick one of your ideas and make it happen!

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Comment from seav on 7 May 2011 at 03:11

@compdude,

Google Map Maker has been existing for a few years now but in other countries. It was only recently that they opened this service up in the United States.

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Comment from ChristophWeber on 7 May 2011 at 03:43

I have looked at most mapping solutions in the past month in an effort to help my HOA manage assets better, and concluded that OSM beats them all. Google Map Maker does not change my opinion.

Reasons:
Mapnik renderings are tasteful and place many more details unobtrusively than the commercial competition.
My edits appear online almost instantly, overnight at worst.
I can build on the official OSM data endlessly. Plans are to use OSM tiles, overlay proprietary layers (e.g. waste water lines, trees, irrigation system, etc.) and link down to textual data in a sophisticated Drupal CSM instance.
As to smartphone apps, I use OpenTouchMap on my iPhone4. Works well enough for viewing. For POI editing I have Mapzen.

I agree that a routing app on the OSM home page would add tremendous value to OSM.

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Comment from FraMauro on 8 May 2011 at 00:05

Would it be possible to create a tool to communicate in a sort of official way that something has been added to the map?
For example I've added an hotel and they weren't on Google maps. It's clear that a mail with "look! There's a map in which your customer can locate your hotel" would have been interesting

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Comment from Vincent de Phily on 9 May 2011 at 09:28

@FraMauro

Not quite sure what you're looking for.
* To get notified yourself, you can use http://matt.dev.openstreetmap.org/owl_viewer/ to watch for changes in your area.
* If you want to notify the owner of something that got added to the map, I can't imagine how that could be automated. Best is for the mapper to send an email to that person, if the email can be found. Actually, that email is a good opportunity to do some OSM evangelism :)

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