Google Map Maker is a new service, provided by Google, designed to expand the breadth of the service currently offered by Google Maps. In some countries mapping data is unavailable, and so to combat this problem Google has decided to open up Google Maps to a collaborative community effort in certain territories. The project is similar to OpenStreetMap, but unlike OSM which provides its map data under a Creative Commons license, any maps created by users of Google Map Maker are the intellectual property of Google.
The ultimate goal of the project is to acquire sufficient high-quality mapping data to be published and used on the existing Google Maps service. Contributions do not currently appear on Google Maps.
Using the find or browse tools, contributors are able to add to and edit existing features on the map. Three kinds of drawing tools are available: placemark (a single point of interest on the map), line (for drawing roads, railways, rivers, and the like) and polygon (for defining boundaries and borders, adding parks, lakes and other large features). The approach encouraged by users and by Google is to trace features such as roads from the existing satellite imagery. This approach is stifled in areas with poor satellite imagery, and can hinder the creation of map data in those areas.
In an attempt to ensure high quality data, new users’ contributions are moderated by more experienced users. This system is also designed to prevent vandalism and inaccuracies. As users make more successful contributions, their edits are less closely modified and may be published on the map straight away. Certain larger features may take a long time to appear on the map as they are waiting to be rendered by the server.
Contributors can assign areas of the map as their ‘neighbourhood’, that is an area they know well enough to make detailed contributions to. Users can also moderate the contributions of others within their neighbourhood. An individual’s neighbourhood is not visible to other users.
It should be noted that map editing has not been enabled for all countries that have insufficient map data. Not all of the regions listed above have high-resolution satellite imagery, making accurate mapping difficult.