Google Map Maker Returns

You may recall that Google took down Map Maker blaming it on algorithms.

Certain offensive search terms were triggering unexpected maps results, typically because people had used the offensive term in online discussions of the place. This surfaced inappropriate results that users likely weren’t looking for.

Well Google has apparently figured out a plan to allow people to start editing the Google map data.

Map Maker will be reopened for editing in early August, and we’re looking for users to now have more influence over the outcome of edits in their specific countries. This means that edits on Map Maker will be increasingly made open for moderation by the community. While some edits will still require moderation by Google operators, our loyal users will recognize that this is a departure from how we have operated in the past where majority of your edits were reviewed by Google operators. This has been a request you’ve made for a very long time, and this change should, hopefully, come as good news.

Community editing, who knew? Google will be “selecting” mappers around the world to be “Regional Leads” on Map Maker. I’m not sure why anyone would want this title but I guess we’ll see soon enough what it entails. Edits have to be moderated before they are published to the map so the quick updates that happened before (and of course happen with OSM) won’t work for Google. I think though considering how things went last time, any change is good for Google.

SpatialTau v2.8 – Buying Your Own Mapping Company

SpatialTau is my weekly newsletter that goes out every Wednesday. The archive shows up in my blog a month after the newsletter is published. If you’d like to subscribe, please do so here.


deCarta has a soft spot for many of us. We saw them hit highs with Yahoo! and Google and then lows when they were dumped. Just 2 weeks ago I talked with Marc Prioleau about deCarta on my Hangout. Last night though the news hit that Uber was buying deCarta.

Uber, the popular ride-sharing startup, is acquiring the mapping and search startup deCarta for an unspecified amount, Mashable has learned.

The deal, which closes later this week, is for deCarta’s technology and talent. Founded in 1996, the San Jose startup provides a software platform that focuses on location-based features, including mapping, local search and turn-by-turn navigation.

So deCarta is now owned by Uber. Uber told Mashable:
“A lot of the functionality that makes the Uber app so reliable, affordable and seamless is based on mapping technologies,” an Uber spokesperson told Mashable. “With the acquisition of deCarta, we will continue to fine-tune our products and services that rely on maps –- for example UberPOOL, the way we compute ETAs, and others – and make the Uber experience even better for our users.”

Makes total sense right? The whole point we use Uber and similar services is because they get a car to us in a couple minutes. Marc Prioleau wrote up his thoughts on the acquisition and came to the conclusion there is much to like about deCarta for Uber. I personally think deCarta helps the backend of Uber improve. Marc’s totally right about that (read what he wrote, it’s worth it). But on the consumer side, the one you and I see when we use the Uber.app I still don’t think they’ll replace Google Maps with deCarta. Marc has a theory that they may want to have a different look to their maps than what Google and Apple have but I honestly think consumers hate change and having Google as the visualization makes perfect sense for Uber.

We’ve seen companies like Mapbox do custom tile sets for clients but these projects are the exception to the rule. On iOS and Android, Apple and Google control the maps and most developers just use what is given them by default. The backend system though, those that improve how Uber operates clearly will be given more support. That said, it isn’t like Uber fails to get their cars to their customers.

I have no idea what Uber uses today, it could be some Google based application, some custom code created by them or a consultant or maybe even Esri. But having more staff that understand maps completely will only assist Uber in improving their service. Clearly every little thing helps Uber compete against taxis and Lyft so it’s probably money well spent. That and deCarta gets a nice landing spot. Wins all around!

SpatialTau v2.7 — Responsive Mapping and Eye Candy

SpatialTau is my weekly newsletter that goes out every Wednesday. The archive shows up in my blog a month after the newsletter is published. If you’d like to subscribe, please do so here.


I have to get some things off my chest but first just know that most people in Arizona drive around with a lasso in their truck for just such an occasion.

  1. Most people are very familiar with responsive web design.  The concept where a website automatically reformats itself to best fit on the size screen or type of device you have.  Awesome stuff right?  Rarely do I have to pinch and zoom on a website anymore.  Yet I’m still seeing tons of (mostly government) mapping applications fail completely on smartphones and tablets.  The mapping libraries are available to handle things, just need to get people to actually use it.
  2. Apple Maps released an update today.  Much of it is just better support to find things but they did go the eye candy route.  I don’t know about you but I find 3D mapping a huge pain in the rear on mobile devices. Heck I can’t even remember the last time I opened up Google Earth (quick check, nope I don’t have it installed on this MacBook).  Sure the idea that Big Ben has the correct time is pretty cool from a technologist perspective but the user in me just wants to have transit mapping and better traffic results.  That’s how you get me to use the map on my iPhone.
  3. Looks like Apple is also ready to release more details on their smart watch.  I’ve seen some really amazing things with the Android Wear products and one can only think that the Apple Watch will push the envelope more.  Personally I like the idea of my watch telling me which way to turn while walking in a city.  I suspect we’ll see lots more this summer with mapping and smart watches.
  4. Middleware is so dated, except in our line of business.  If there is nothing a GIS developer likes more is inserting multiple levels of severs between an application and a database.  Paul Ramsey said on my hangout that he thinks that PostGIS is about feature complete.  That’s why I think the magic moving forward will happen in the direct visualization of databases in the browser.
  5. Pitchers and catchers have reported.  Spring is here and the boys of summer are working hard.  Don’t worry about me though, it’s an odd year and that means the Giants won’t win the World Series.  Next year though be ready!