Leaving Wikimapia was a result of several factors. Most significant was the feeling that the Administrators appeared to have abandoned the development of the website. Much of the useful features were buggy or non-functional and remained that way for months and years now. The “Map Shift” tool was gone for over a year, leaving the inaccuracies to be painstakingly mapped by hand, piece by piece. In the past, water patches actually added land, and these were not fixed. In fact, I returned after how many years to find out that these were still existing. So what did I do? Added a water area just to cover the large land patch over the whole gulf. This seems to be the way the website operates nowadays. Users are forced to accept what cannot be changed because the Admins are silent. Communication between the users and the Admins is extremely rare. In fact, I had sent a message to the Admins regarding issues which I had believed seriously affect the integrity of the Wikimapia data. No replies. A feature of the messaging system is that a message could be seen if it was opened or not. My message wasn’t even opened by the Admin. The thing I would notice is that the Admins communicate to a very few of their closest users for certain issues, all the while ignoring the others. Features are requested, and they have a very large backlog of these aside from numerous bug reports that were unresolved for almost a year. All the while, feature requests that were tagged as “Planned” several years ago were not actually released until now, giving false hope to its loyal users. In fact, checking on the profiles of most of the few Admins, one would find that they have been logged in days or even months ago. Maybe something is wrong, or maybe they are “too busy”. I thought of the possibility that they were concentrating on the Android app development, whose first version was released last January. It had no search or edit functions though, but the app description contained an assurance that it would have those features in the next versions. How many months has passed since then?
It is not only the Admins that changed the website. The community, especially the veteran users, had developed a sense of superiority and cynicism. This would be most especially seen in the Forum, which appears to be dead nowadays. Perhaps one thing that makes Wikimapia “unfair” is the voting system. A user has his accumulated “good votes” displayed on his profile, which is understandable. However, it may give the impression that such users with high votes are far more superior (and should be respected more) than the others. A Regular User will be put for “promotion” to an Advanced User based on his accumulated “experience points”. This user, however, must be evaluated, supposed to be, by existing Advanced Users. He/she must have at least 50% of “promote votes” by existing Advanced Users. Most of these Regular Users (almost 95%) are denied of this promotion. In fact, the most obvious reason by many is that the promotion is “too early” for such a new user, despite his dedication and great/quality contributions. Others are just rejected outright without even a fair and in-depth evaluation. It would be extremely puzzling to any as to why a user is an Advanced User but has been inactive for several years, while these new Regular active ones are denied of the status. Why? Many of these past Advanced ones were summarily appointed by the Admins years ago. There is no equality, and many of these regular might have given up the hope of being promoted or even being given “good votes”.
Such circumstances led me to ponder about the future of the website, and moreover, about the future of the contributions I have been adding since day 1 of registering in that website. I would not want to contribute to a website whose future is uncertain. I love mapping, which led me to choose between Google Maps or OSM. But I also do not want to continue giving my contributions to a company or a few people. I want my contributions to be benefit the world. I have been reading about OSM way back, and I know how it is being compared with Google Maps. I am also a Wikipedia user, so after knowing Wikipedia was using its map data in its coordinates feature, I came to believe that OSM is the future of mapping. I decided to leave Wikimapia for all these reasons combined, and give those mapping efforts to OSM instead.
The interface during my first edits impressed me, even with the basic editor iD. This is far more advanced than what I was used to in Wikimapia. I could fix several things first, then upload them all at once! It could save time. I realized OSM is what I should have done in the first place. A few days of contributing, usually adding map features or improving existing ways, I saw the effect of my contributions. It was a sight to see. What’s more, I saw the things I have added being used in Wikipedia. I came to see how OSM affects the world much more than Wikimapia. It is constantly being developed, being used by numerous other webites, and its advocacy for creating a truly “free map” is admirable. It is an honor to be a part of such a group of selfless people not looking for profit or ownership of data, but for sharing what is supposed to be free in the first place. I am content knowing that each edit I make actually has a great effect on the whole world, and not only for a few people or a single centralized company.