After experiencing several pranks from contributors on its Maps, Google has announced this week to have temporarily closed down Google Map Maker, its map editing tool for consumers.
“As some of you know already, we have been experiencing escalated attacks to spam Google Maps over the past few months. The most recent incident was particularly troubling and unfortunate – a strong user in our community chose to go and create a large scale prank on the Map. As a consequence, we suspended auto-approval and user moderation across the globe, till we figured out ways to add more intelligent mechanisms to prevent such incidents,“ the company stated in a blog post.
One of the most recent pranks was the addition on the map of an “Edwards Snow Den,“ in one of the aisle of the U.S. President White House.
This demonstrates the limit of using an automated review system for consumer-made map edits when you are a company such as Google. But this does not mean consumer-made map edits are low quality by nature.
Openstreetmap (OSM), which is fully ran by volunteers (more than 2 million members), is not much subject to pranks and malicious edits. There are several reasons to that.
First, unlike Google, OSM public profile is very low, so there is not much interest to make fun out of OSM.
Second, OSM has a very strong community with many hands at play. Unlike Google which wants – for obvious cost reason – to reduce as much as possible human interaction to validate map edits, an entity such as OSM does not have this kind of problem. Power users in the community are keeping under watch possible mistakes from beginners. Just like Wikipedia, the community is moderating itself
Third, OSM is a not-for-profit, which means map editors are much more concerned by what they do compared to edits made on a commercial map.
The problem of Google in this matter is that is has been willing to play on both sides of the fence. On one side Google is a commercial map vendor licensing – or advertising through – its data and therefore promising a high level of quality.