Tuesday morning, Google made its Map Maker feature available in the U.S., allowing anyone to edit and approve changes to Google Maps. The feature has been live in 183 other countries around the world. Similar to open projects such as Open Street Map, it allows locals to map out the details that are most useful to them and integrate other Google services.
“The world is living and breathing; our maps were not,” said Map Maker tech lead Lalitesh Katragadda in an interview.
The company’s Maps site is the go-to place for many people who are looking for directions, but it can fall behind if there’s new construction in the neighborhood or a favorite business has moved. The feature allows updates. It also gives users the ability to share less traditional map information such as favorite bike routes or camping sites.
It has already been live in countries including Pakistan, Vietnam and India.
Katragadda said that the feature has been highly successful overseas and, in about 150 countries, has provided the information for Google Maps. “When we launched in Romania, it was blank,” he said.“Every road, every building was created by users.”
Anyone signed into a Google Account can edit a map, submit changes for approval and see changes go live within a matter of minutes. Katragadda said that any changes are reviewed both by other Map Maker users and a moderator team. Over time, you can build your editing reputation and your smaller changes may go live more quickly.
Erroneous edits will be kept in check by the fact anyone can moderate even if they’ve never edited the maps.
In addition to the U.S. Map Maker launch, product manager Manik Gupta said that Google has put Street View integration and advanced search options into Map Maker across the globe. For example, users can search specifically for Italian restaurants in a given area.
When asked about the privacy issues that can arise from having an open map, Katragadda said that the feature will not allow information that can be traced back to a specific person.
“Personal data, such as ‘my uncle’s home,’ or things like that are not allowed,” he said.
He also said that while users must be signed in to edit, personal information such as e-mail addresses will not be shared.
Google has released a video explaining Map Maker. Check it out below: