Google shuts down Google Maps’ editing tools

I mean I wasn’t a big editor in Google Maps but I know people did use it. Over the weekend this appeared, sadly not a April Fools joke.

Google Map Maker officially closed on March 31, 2017, and many of its features are being integrated into Google Maps.
Now you might think this is cool, integrated in to Google Maps natively. Unfortunately there is a huge functionality difference between Google Map Maker and Google Maps editing.

I think this is a reflection on the type of editing being done. It’s mostly POI editing rather than actual mapping. So it’s up to OSM to continue the open mapping platform which is how it should be in the first place. Google Maps Maker is probably best known for this image that was removed about 2 years ago.

Google now offers pay-as-you-go for Google Maps API

Seriously right?  About time!  Most users of Google’s Maps API are caught between the free tier and the “I wish I had a business model to pay for the premium tier” pricing.  But Google has figured this out and introduced a new way to pay for the Google Maps API.

Today we’re introducing a simple and flexible option for developers to instantly and easily scale with these Web Service APIs, by opening them up to pay-as-you-go purchasing via the Google Developers Console. In this new purchasing structure, the Google Maps Geocoding, Directions, Distance Matrix, Roads, Geolocation, Elevation, and Time Zone APIs remain free of charge for the first 2,500 requests per day, and developers may now simply pay $0.50 USD per 1,000 additional requests up to 100,000 requests per API per day. Developers requiring over 100,000 requests per day should contact us to purchase a premium licence.

This is huge because now you’ll know what you’re paying for the API rather than wait for that huge bill at the end of the month.  Knowing what things are going to cost is key to building spatial applications. Provide your billing details and build away!

Google Here Never Was

Indoor mapping is the white whale of our Spatial IT industry.  We’re always reading about how our smartphones will lead us to the best deals or how I can find the specific nail I need in Home Depot without having to ask anyone or walk down every aisle.  They key to all this is essentially iBeacon.

You can search Google News for all the latest excitement on the concept but essentially it is a way for your phone to know where things are and for the vendors to know where you phone is through Bluetooth.  Imagine walking into a store and getting alerts about your favorite beer being on sale and then the ability to navigate directly there.  Sexy right?  Plus we’ve been anticipating this happening for years.  Except

Google was set to launch a new product that added context to one of its most successful apps, Google Maps. But earlier this year, it was shut down by Alphabet CEO Larry Page, according to people familiar with the project.

Google Here worked by sending a notification to a smartphone user’s lock screen within five seconds of their entering a partner’s location. If the user clicked on the notification, a full screen HTLM5 “app” experience would launch. Google Here would know when to send the notification via Google Maps and beacons placed in the stores of participating partners. Google planned to supply the beacons to partners for the launch, according to the document. The experience could also be found by going to the Google Maps app.

Exactly what we though everyone wanted.  In testing the application was deemed too invasive and Google feared no retailers would sign up.  That’s right, Google didn’t think could get their partners to install cheap beacons in their stores AND they feared they were too big brother.  Seems weird doesn’t it, if there is one company that can get companies to spend money on ads, it is Google.  And since when did Google ever think pushing ads on us was “invasive”?

The magic about Google Here (Here as in not Here that was owned by Nokia) was that you didn’t need an app running for it to work.  Think about that for a minute, ads would appear on your phone based on where you where and you didn’t need to opt in to get them.  Now we see why Google was very concerned that Here was going to get a large backlash.  Being able to push ads on users would have been something they really could have sold well to companies, I’m not sure there would be any fear of companies not wanting to push ads on us.

Beacons are still very important to Google. Their Eddystone project talks about lots of uses of beacons but not for ad delivery.  Clearly there was feedback on this project and it jolted Google out of their normal sell more ads business model.  I think beacons will be very valuable as they start appearing in more areas, but I for one don’t need to get an ad for fabric softener every time I walk into a Target.

Personalized Storm Tracking by Google

If there is one thing that gets the GeoMarketers excited, it is natural disasters.  Every year at this time we see hurricane trackers, 3D storm viewers and other “exciting” products to help protect us from the wrath of mother nature.  This year Google is promoting their Personalized Storm Tracker.

The safety recommendations you receive will be tailored to reflect the current status of the event and your context. For example, if you search for a specific storm when it’s still several days away, you may see a map of the developing weather event and a recommendation to start preparing an emergency kit. If the storm is only hours away from your location, you might receive a reminder to start charging your phone in case power goes out. And if you search when the storm is nearby, you’ll get the most urgent information, like how to avoid injury from fast-moving water or flying debris.

I feel like these things are more trouble than they are worth.  Last Sunday I was at Sky Harbor Airport when a dust storm alert went off on all the iPhones in the baggage claim area.  The whole place sounded loud as the alerts went off warning us that wind and dust were headed our way.  The result of this great warning, people making jokes.  Sure an alert was issued, sure it probably is a safety thing that we all get these alerts on our phones.  But the delivery isn’t personalized, it’s a broadcast message and then 10 minutes of people joking about the alerts.

At least in the USA, storms don’t sneak up on anyone.  These products are great press but of little value.

Google Map Maker is Officially Back in the USA

Well good news for those who want to help a down on its luck company like Google update their maps.

Google Map Maker, the tool which allows anyone around the world to contribute information to Google’s worldwide map, has re-opened in 45 countries after going live again in 6 countries two weeks ago. The product was temporarily shut down in May after it was discovered that some nefarious edits to the map, like geographic polygons shaped to depict an Android peeing on what is ostensibly an Apple logo, were being approved.

If you want to help Google, just go to Google Map Maker and start editing.  Just know your edits will get locked up and used to make a ton of money.  Here in the USA you can’t create polygons yet but I suppose that will be back soon.

Google Maps Gets Lost in Photos

Look I love iOS but I still use Google Maps as much as possible because it works better than any other mapping service out there.  But I’m beginning to wonder what Google is thinking by adding some new features.

Now Google is looking to capitalize on this ongoing trend with a new feature in Google Maps that encourages users to share their “foodie pics” with others by posting the photo to Google Maps itself.

It could be that I live in a car town and navigation is the reason I use Google Maps but the idea that I would use my mapping app to take pictures of food is a bit out there.  I mean don’t they have their own social media network to handle this?  Oh right

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.