First Thoughts on Google MapMaker Download

Google announced today MapMaker Data Download. What does it mean for OpenStreetMap and Open Geo Data?

The early chatter is focusing on the licensing, naturally. Non-commercial use only, non-compete with Google services, and strict attribution requirements. All three mean MapMaker data is incompatible with OSM licensing (cc-by-sa, or the ODbL). The meaning of non-commercial is pretty clear. Non-competition clause with Google means things like OpenCycleMap are not possible, as routing is explicitly not permitted. But does it mean you can not produce tiles and use them in your slippy map? What about in a mobile device?

What’s left? Well, some humanitarian response applications are possible. UN-OCHA and UNOSAT could make maps with MapMaker data .. but they could not make routing apps for relief workers. Many academic projects would be clear. There’s many possible uses for project in the public interest. It is encouraging that Google is moving in this direction and willing to help some class of mapping projects.

OpenStreetMap is definitely not satisfied .. MapMaker is still effectively a data silo. It is more useful than before for sure. And that’s a distraction from the goal of truely free and open geographic data. Google’s omni-presence and still huge budgets and comprehensive satellite imagery mean they can muscle their way into the discussion. It’s typical Google satisficion.

The data is very interesting. Quickly comparing the roads layers against OSM in Kenya show good correspondence where there is Yahoo aerial imagery to trace against — if OSM had access to the same imagery, I imagine we’d be pretty much equivalent country-wide. MapMaker is slightly more complete in central Nairobi; I put that down to Google having full time employees in Nairobi who work on MapMaker.

Some screenshots from overlaying OSM (green) and MapMaker (purple) in QGIS (you tell me whether this violates any licenses). This is just roads, plenty more analysis to be had on this and other layers.

Kenya MapMaker vs OpenStreetMap


Kenya MapMaker vs OpenStreetMap

Greater Nairobi

Kenya MapMaker vs OpenStreetMap-3

Central Nairobi

The MapMaker metadata file, included in the download, is fascinating and funny. The geographic features layers schema includes a TYPE_SHRUBBERY, POIs include TYPE_GURUDWARA (amenity=place_of_worship,religion=sikh in OSM).

We’re in the early hours of semi-open MapMaker. What will the future hold. WhereCamp Africa should be that much more interesting this weekend .. if you have any questions, leave in the comments and I’ll forward on to attendees in Nairobi. Will MapMaker data for other countries be released? Is tiling ok? What’s going to be the first MapMaker app? Will they import public domain data, such as the upcoming release of JumpStart’s map of Palestine?

Btw, there’s an upcoming Google MapMaker User Conference. Anyone from Bangalore planning to go?!

2 thoughts on “First Thoughts on Google MapMaker Download”

  1. Missed that MapMaker User Conference announcement, and IAC, I haven’t contributed to Google Maps. Maybe someone else is going.

    Incidentally, have other things to discuss. Will mail.

  2. Ah, could you not have waited 2 weeks posting this? There is a nice increase in green in Kenya’s Eastern Province now…

    On another note, I am still wondering how google made that map of Nairobi with street names…

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