Google Dumps Navteq; Opens Up Map Maker for the Philippines

7:08 pm PHT

Here’s a couple of interesting development on the Google Geography department. First, the quick news item: Google has dropped Navteq as one of its mapping data providers (i.e., companies that provide street, point-of-interest, and routing data) in favor of continuing to do business with Tele Atlas. This is not unexpected since Navteq was recently acquired by Nokia and the industry movement of these two companies in the past year have made them competitors of each other. This latest move by Google was first revealed last Friday, September 19, in a blog post by Mike Blumenthal. The announcement from Google Maps Guide Adam contained this snippet:

I wanted to give you a heads up that Google Maps recently made some changes to the map data. Specifically, we have moved Google Maps over to use the same map data from Tele Atlas that is currently used by both the Google Maps API and Google Maps for Mobile.

While Navteq was not mentioned, anyone with a background of the situation can easily read between the lines. Before dropping Navteq, Google had signed a 5-year agreement with Tele Atlas. In the deal, Tele Atlas will continue to supply mapping data to Google while Google will provide back to Tele Atlas corrections submitted by its users to the data.

The second news item is more relevant to us. Google has finally opened up its Map Maker service to the Philippines. Google Philippines Country Representative Aileen Apolo sent me a private plurk yesterday then later did a public plurk giving this unofficial announcement. (Update: you can now read the official announcement from Google.) Only a few areas in the Philippines are open for public editing but the current data now is quite comprehensive. Metro Manila is fantastic, Metro Cebu is moving along, and Davao City is just starting. Some areas along the countryside are also in the works, notably the belt between Calamba to Batangas City, where there is a strip of high-resolution satellite imagery that somebody had traced over. The street data for Metro Manila found in Map Maker is certainly a far cry from the pitiful roads in Google Maps that I criticized a little more than a year ago.

This is certainly a welcome development but I have to admit that I am far less than ecstatic. Why? Just read my previous blog post where I dissected Google Map Maker. Now that it’s available for the Philippines, I’ve dipped my hands and tried out Google Map Maker and compared the experience with OpenStreetMap, an open-content project I’ve been contributing to and been blogging about since last year. The verdict? Both have their strengths and weaknesses but I’ll continue to invest my time and effort with OpenStreetMap as a matter of principle (even if I’m a Google fanboy). OSM is open-content while Google Map Maker is a walled garden; I prefer the former of course.

That said, I must say Google Map Maker is a more structured project data-wise which eases contributing somewhat. The data that you can enter is expansive but very limited: only enough to support Google’s location-based services. OSM, on the other hand, is very permissive in its data entry such that you can literally tag any point, line, or area with any sort of string data. The OSM community just agrees on basic conventions but anyone is free to add their own data whatsoever. This provides for a much more richer dataset at the expense of computational complexity and anarchic development.

As a final note, shown below is the current data the two projects have for the Fort Bonifacio Global City district. The Google Map Maker contributors still traced over the pre-Bonifacio High Street satellite imagery while in OSM, the data is much more updated and richer. (Of course I had a hand in that.)  :-D

 Comparison image of the Fort Bonifacio Global City area between Google Map Maker and OpenStreetMap.

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