Starting with Kenya, Google is allowing users to download the base data collected through the Map Maker service, as either KML or Shapefile format. Google’s licensing allows for only non-commercial use. Hopefully, this data will support some of the non-profit mapping efforts taking place on the continent. The license also restricts (or at least, severely limits) competition with services provided by Google. This puts OpenStreetMap in an odd position – OSM is restricted from incorporating the data into its own service. Considering OSM has been around since 2004 and Map Maker only 2008, and seeing how many people in over 100 countries have been offering Google data, OSM needs to better align (or contrast) itself with the work Google is doing. One of the reasons I believe Map Maker has gathered the amount of user-generated content in the past year is that Map Maker is incredibly easy to use and if you do run into issues, there is clear and concise help. This is compared to the OSM Beginner’s Guide. Now, I understand that OSM is geared towards a more technical audience than the Map Maker service, but OSM needs to spend more time fostering a community outside of the devoted submitters. What is going to prevent Google from offering up a GIS service akin to the Virtual Earth on ArcGIS platform currently being offered by ESRI and Microsoft? A service built on TA/Navteq data, enhanced with local knowledge? A service that is available now from OSM, but much easier to use? Providing base data for Kenya is just the beginning.
- Unless explicitly stated otherwise, the opinions expressed here are my own.
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