Google Maps had The Atlantic over for a chat about how they work up their ‘deep map’ from various sources. It’s interesting to read about how Google invests incredible amounts of money and manpower to try and do the best job possible of capturing ground truth without people on the ground.
The article contains some ‘data views’ of Google Maps data in various stages of being worked up. I don’t know if it’s actual screenshots of an editing environment, but regardless, it’s an interesting peek behind the scenes that I had not had before.
This is from the article:
The Google Maps editing environment. Source: The Atlantic
This is about the same area loaded into the OpenStreetMap desktop editor JOSM:
The same area in the OpenStreetMap editor JOSM
Now you can look long and hard to try and make out ten or maybe a hundred differences in the data, but there’s one difference between these two views that reaches much deeper. The data behind Google Maps you will never get to see, let alone touch. The data in OpenStreetMap on the other hand is there for anyone to download, use, make great products out of and, most importantly, edit and improve. That difference marks a cardinal characteristic of the Google Maps platform that the article failed to raise. Consider that itch scratched.
Well, certainly not today, and certainly not soon, but the introduction of georeferenced photos on Google Maps this week will certainly rock the online photo communities’ boat. Sure, there are tons of websites overlaying flickr photos on top of a web map, and most are richer than what Google Maps currently offers. Take for example loc.alize.us, a flickr/Google Maps mashup that has been around for a while. It offers tag filtering, user filtering, and a very nice and clean interface. To top it off, it offers a bookmarklet that integrates georeferencing into flickr.com very nicely. I still use it, although Yahoo Maps, the mapper of choice for Flickr’s mapping needs, of course, has had adequate coverage of the Netherlands for some time now.
But still.. It’s not directly ON Google Maps, which is – at least in Western Europe at this time – the ubiquitous web map. The general public will rarely discover any layer of the geographic web beyond Google Maps and Google Earth. ‘So, if I want my photos to show up on the web, I need to be on Panoramio.’ – Panoramio being the photo sharing community that has been showing off on Google Earth for as long as I can remember, and as from now on Google Maps as well. Panoramio was acquired by Google in May, 2007.
No, I don’t expect a mass flux of flickr users towards Panoramio. The latter will see a good number of new members though, and if Google remains as picky about which photos to display within Maps – I’m still confused as to where this leaves Picasa; I guess the user base is not large enough – Panoramio might become a force to be reckoned with in the online photo community universe.