It is the end of a Grand Experiment in user generated content. Google has just announced that user edits of unclaimed business listings will need to be reviewed by Google before showing in the Map index.
In March of 2008, Google Maps added the capacity to allow users to edit business listings. It caused a great deal of consternation at the time and shortly thereafter, as many (myself included) thought that allowing unverified user edits of business records would lead to a decline in listing quality and an increase in spam. If nothing else it felt like a violation of sacrosanct data.
After my fall 2008 hijack of Microsoft’s unclaimed listing to demonstrate the potential for damage, edits no longer showed instantaneously in the main SERPS. At the time though, Google ‘s response was the now ironic and somewhat hypocritical: “The wiki nature of Google Maps expands upon Google’s steadfast commitment to open community.”
Google though created an environment that essentially gave permission to all local sites to allow unclaimed records to be edited by anyone. It is a practice that became the industry standard. While it has always been unnerving and has lead to criminal activity, abuses and horrendous spam, it was never totally clear whether allowing unverified edits lead to a net quality gain the index or not…until now.
Here is the body of the announcement made this evening in the Maps forum:
We recently made a change to Google Maps to require all community edits to be reviewed before they are shown. In the past, some “pending” edits were shown immediately on Maps and only moderated (and sometimes denied) later on.
We’re taking this step to ensure that changes to Google Maps pass the high quality bar our users expect, while preventing SPAM and other problems from showing up before being reviewed first.
We want to empower you to be a valuable local expert by making it easy to fix and report problems you find on Google Maps. We realize it is inconvenient to wait for edits to be reviewed, and we are working hard to streamline our review process to reduce this waiting period.
Google is obviously concerned with improving the quality of the business data in their index. To some extent their future depends on it. Recently they announced the hiring of 300 temporary workers to help catch business listing and geo errors. By preventing unverified edits, Google is obviously taking another step to insure the overall quality of their data set. The change will allow them to catch fast changing information on the ground and update their index more quickly without experiencing the relentless pounding of scammers and spammers.
It marks the end of an experiment in the “wiki nature of Maps” which I am very glad to see end. There are times when the value of editorial review supersedes the “intelligence” of the crowds & community.