Google turns to users for guidance on US maps

Apr 19, 2011 By MICHAEL LIEDTKE , AP Technology Writer
Google Maps

(AP) -- Google Inc. doesn't hesitate to seek directions when it comes to trying to improve its online mapping service.

That's why is asking its users to add more details to its U.S. maps. The suggested revisions can be made beginning Tuesday through an editing tool that already has been used to create and refine maps in 183 other countries since 2005.

Google, which is based in Mountain View, didn't rush to introduce the map-making service in the U.S. because it already had a good lay of the land in its home country. It decided instead to concentrate on filling in the gaps in other parts of the world where were far more primitive or completely unavailable.

As comprehensive as Google's U.S maps are, the leader believes they can get a lot better with the help of citizen cartographers.

Google is hoping people will be willing to volunteer to designate where their favorite neighborhood hangouts are or perhaps label all the buildings on the campus of their alma mater or a nearby university. Other local knowledge conceivably could be used to plot which streets have bike lanes or the locations of community parks.

All proposed changes submitted through http://mapmaker.google.com will be reviewed for mistakes before they appear in Google's . Google will rely on volunteer moderators in addition to using its computer to track the trustworthiness of the users who log into the mapmaking service.

Calling upon the collective knowledge of users with expertise in particular topics is similar to the approach used to create , the Internet's leading online encyclopedia. Although Wikipedia has published some embarrassing mistakes during its 10-year history, it has proven reliable enough to become one of the Internet's most frequented destinations.

Google says it also has found citizen cartographers to be diligent and accurate in the other countries where the map-editing tools already have been available.

The quest to make Google's maps more revealing has gotten the company into trouble previously.

The biggest backlash has been directed at a "Street View" feature that provides photographic images of many cities in the online maps. Street View initially provoked privacy complaints because Google published photos that included people in public places or activities that they didn't want to be posted online.

Last year, Google revealed that the cars also had been equipped with software that vacuumed up personal e-mail and other data from users on unprotected wireless networks in neighborhoods where the company's picture-taking cars had been cruising. Google says it didn't discover the cars had the snooping software until it responded to a regulatory inquiry.

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User comments : 7

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WarRoom
1 / 5 (1) Apr 19, 2011
You'd have to be crazy to spend your time modifying road vectors for free; it's painstaking work and that's exactly why Google wants someone (YOU) to do it for them. It can take hundreds of man hours to produce a single city and then you still have to test it.
Doug_Huffman
not rated yet Apr 19, 2011
G00gle's fundamental business model is profiteering from minute knowledge of the commons and selling it to the helpless unskeptical.
Doug_Huffman
not rated yet Apr 19, 2011
MapMaker isn't ready for prime time play in America.
curmudgeony
not rated yet Apr 19, 2011
"Google says it didn't discover the cars had the snooping software until...."

Yah, 'helpless unskeptical' - that's my new catch-phrase for the day, thanks Doug.
CSharpner
not rated yet Apr 19, 2011
You'd have to be crazy to spend your time modifying road vectors for free; it's painstaking work and that's exactly why Google wants someone (YOU) to do it for them. It can take hundreds of man hours to produce a single city and then you still have to test it.

I don't think Google intends (nor will people likely) map a whole city. For example, I have a TomTom that allows me to submit corrections. I've submitted a couple for speed limit corrections, street name corrections, and in one case where a connecting street was no longer connecting. It takes just a minute or so for each correction. My corrections get uploaded to TomTom's servers to be downloaded by other users. After TomTom validates it, it becomes part of their standard map. Everyone benefits, including me because when the TomTom routes my trip, it uses my corrections and others get the same benefit.

Does it amount to them profiting from my free labor? Yes, but I do benefit and I enjoy doing it.
rynox
not rated yet Apr 19, 2011
You'd have to be crazy to spend your time modifying road vectors for free; it's painstaking work and that's exactly why Google wants someone (YOU) to do it for them. It can take hundreds of man hours to produce a single city and then you still have to test it.


The same could be said about the crowd-sourcing techniques of wikipedia. It works. It works well. No one person or team could have assembled the amount of information that wikipedia contains.
6_6
not rated yet Apr 20, 2011
skynet (aka google) maps is loaded with mistakes and unusuable to me, still shows our street connected to a road that hasn't existed for 12 years. I've used and recommended Bing Maps for ages now and it's been reliable and up to date.