It wasn’t clear why Google was deprecating MyMaps over the past several months; removing the ability to search them from Maps in January and removing them from Places last month. Now we know. It appears that MyMaps is being deprecated in the US in favor of Google’s much more robust community map making tool Map Maker.
First released in August of 2008 as a way to engage the public in the creation of maps in the 3rd world, it went mainstream in February of 2009 when Google integrated ugc from the Map Maker community into the Google Maps in 16 countries. According to Google “Using Map Maker, people have built out and edited the maps for 183 countries and regions around the world, and now, due to the contributions of citizen cartographers, 30 percent of people have detailed online maps of the places they live”. Kenya has been a poster child of this effort with a large swatch of the country having been mapped via citizen generated content. Google has even sponsored a Ladies Mapping Party there to increase awareness.
Unlike MyMaps which was essentially unregulated and abused in hopes of increasing local ranking, each Map Maker user contributions and edits will be reviewed. “After approval, the edits will appear in Google Maps within minutes—dramatically speeding up the time it takes for online maps to reflect the often-changing physical world.” The community design of the system allows for peer to peer as well as moderator inputs on these edits. There also appears to be a trust ranking system that assigns increasing trust to editors who have more experience and a good track record.
Any such system may have users who attempt to abuse it. Hopefully the system of double checks in Map Maker will discourage abuses and will lead to an increase in Map quality.
Google’s ability to keep up with user generated edits seems strained and hopefully this will allow for accuracy and speedy updates in out of the way places that otherwise seem to suffer the most in the new world of digital geography.
To learn more about Map Maker for the United States visit Google’s training and Help files.Google Releases Map Maker in the US by Mike Blumenthal