Posted June 25, 2008 4:16 pm by with 17 comments

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Once upon a time, a bunch of Googlers were sitting around during meal time or 20% time or something, just thinking. And you know what happens when Googlers think in groups, right?

“You know,” says one, “I sure wish we could bring Google Maps to the islands of the world.”

“Yeah, that would be awesome. I claim Tahiti!”

“No, I’m serious,” says the first. “But, obviously, travel costs would be prohibitively high.”

“I still get Tahiti,” mutters the second. “If we do Street View, anyway.”

*moments of rumination*

“I know!” exclaims a third. “Let’s have the islanders do it!”

“Yeah! It’ll be like outsourcing to India!”

“Even better—let’s do this wiki-style. Id est, we don’t pay contributors.”

“Tahiti, here we come!”

All mutually bask in awe of their brilliance and proper usage of Latin phrases. Google Map Maker is born.

. . . Do you think I’m kidding? Because I’m not. Not, really, anyway. When I heard the name Google MapMaker, I thought, “Oh, cool, this will be something like My Maps only with lots of cool editing features, right?”

Nope. Google MapMaker, according to the Google Site dedicated to it, is designed to help create custom maps, including features like:

  • Borders and regions (states/provinces, districts/administrative regions, cities, neighborhoods, etc.)
  • Road networks
  • Places of interest
  • Local businesses
  • Railways, waterways, events and reviews

However, it’s not designed to be useful to the vast majority of . . . well, everyone (right now at least). The current list of countries included in MapMaker:

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Bermuda
  • British Virgin Islands
  • Cayman Islands
  • Cyprus
  • Grenada
  • Iceland
  • Jamaica
  • Netherlands Antilles
  • Pakistan
  • St. Kitts and Nevis
  • St. Lucia
  • St. Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Vietnam

(Okay, so, Pakistan and Vietnam aren’t islands. Or anywhere near the other countries on this list. What’s the deal?)

Among the data you can add now are things like adding points, naming streets and clarifying turn restrictions at intersections.

I’m guessing some Googlers had tropical vacations on their minds when they came up with this one.

  • PS3

    I’ve read the post three times now and am not sure I am getting it. Bottom line? You think it is a waste of time?

  • I claim Tahiti! 😉

  • Google’s ideas is out of my mind 🙂
    I think this useful for some people groups.

  • Why giving Google Maps they sell, then ?

    Use instead an the map you make is freely usable for everybody.

  • I’m trying to understand this post of yours, Jordan. No offense, but what is wrong with Google wanting to go somewhat “open-source” with their maps and hoping for user-contributions in certain smaller areas of the world as a trial to see how it will work out and how users apply their own knowledge to these areas. This was discussed ages ago by Google (2006 already I seem to remember), and they have finally made the step. Kudos to them I say.

    Alex’s last blog post..On Information Architecture and user-testing – Part 3 – Usability testing and Accessibility testing

  • Looks like they wanted to start small, like pretty much everything that went through the Google lab. I assume this first batch of territories was selected because they would not pose issues from who knows what policy / legal point of view?

    Otilia Otlacan’s last blog post..Aegis Media Moves into Ad Serving by Acquiring Bluestreak

  • Google is just trying to start to crush legitimate open source projects like OpenStreetMap. Google will copyright all the data you upload as their own and sell it on for profit. Contribute to OpenStreetMap instead.

    [link removed]

  • I think doing something that other don’t even think about is Google’s success key.

  • @Tiffany:

    They don’t.. The basic idea is stolen from and others.

    Alex’s last blog post..Import von Earth-Info.Nga.Mil

  • Jordan McCollum

    The problem still looks pretty patently obvious to me. Why test something with a group of users that is undoubtedly so small that we’ll never see any progress?

    If they really wanted to get into these areas, DO IT. It’s not like you really have to go there to figure these things out. But it would involve time and resources, and the user base in these areas obviously doesn’t justify that.

    If they really cared about copying this company you keep touting, why not launch MapMaker somewhere where people will actually use it?

    For the number of people that will actually use it, the tool is essentially nonexistent. It’s a project that makes it look like they’re doing cool new things without actually making any improvements.

  • Pleased to see Google has their Latin phrase-a-day calendar still.

    I’m not sure whether you’re suggesting this is a poor idea but here’s my £0.02 – why not make it open source to a limited population (islands, though this logic fails when considering Pakistan…) and see how the experiment fares before offering it to their main markets. Seems a reasonable prospect to me

  • looks a little abandoned.

    Symbian’s last blog post..Nokia S60 Symbian Windows Live client available in Europe

  • Nothing like free labor.People just enjoy doing things.

    Austin(Cowsgonemadd3)’s last blog post..Sony loses 3.3 billion on the playstation 3 game console

  • It is frre, and great because of that.

  • Otilia Otlacan what you say makes sense, Google starting small initially.

  • Is that really how a meeting of the minds works? haha

  • Sarah Jefferson

    @jordon You've missed the point. “If they really cared about copying this company you keep touting” ….openstreetmap is not a company. It's a not-for-profit volunteer organisation overseen by the openstreetmap foundation That's exactly why you should contribute to and not google map maker.

    @Symbian “ looks a little abandoned” I don't really understand how you can reach that conclusion. The project has exponential growth in users and map data. It doesn't have the coverage of google maps in developed countries because the project is building new open licensed data from scratch.

    Google meanwhile is simply licensing copyrighted data from other providers for most of the world, and where there are no providers they have released Google Map Maker, and are asking people to work on creating data which, in a few years time, they will be able to sell, or otherwise use to command a monopoly on the geodata industry.

    I enjoy volunteering a bit of my time to work on building maps, but I wouldn't do that without thinking about what exactly it is that I am contributing to, and I'd advise others to think about this.