(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Maps and Legends

Even though it sometimes feels like they feel like it’s been around since the Web was invented, the Google Maps service has been available to the public for less than a decade. The Web version of Google Maps went live in 2005 and within months, had incorporated now-familiar features like satellite imagery and directions. The standalone Google Earth program, with its inventive use of satellite photos and 3D navigation, also arrived that year. (2005 was a very good year, indeed.)

The mobile version Google Maps app got a huge new user base in 2007 when the iPhone arrived to kick off the smartphone races. Google has been a dominant force in the world of online maps long before Apple’s ill-fated adventures in digital cartography showed the superiority of the Google Maps app.

Google itself diligently updates the material with its Street View cars, fresh satellite images, and other enhancements and it recently revamped Maps Web site. But one of the reasons Google Maps may seem so thorough is that the company allows users to help update the content and even make corrections to maps that are out of date — or just plan wrong. If you know an area of town and see a mistake on a Google Map, there’s a Report a Problem link right there on the page so you can let somebody at Google Maps HQ know.

beepsmapsBut Google Maps invites much more participation than just corrections. With the free Google Map Maker tool, you, local citizen, can add places to a Google map, edit a place that’s already there, and add buildings, roads, hiking trails, bike lanes or other points of interest to a map. You can also review edits and additions made to maps by other Google users. When you go to the Google Map Maker site, you can get basic step-by-step instructions for editing maps and there’s a Getting Started Guide for the Map Maker Interface online. There’s also a Google Map Maker Help Center, MapUp meet-ups and an official forum available.

A couple of caveats: not every country is mapped by Google and yes, your own edits are reviewed by experts and others before they officially become part of the map so you can not name your neighbor’s house Jackhole Estates or anything.

So if you’ve every been led astray by an outdated Google map (perhaps a closed road or a point of interest that’s since closed), here’s you’re chance. Jump in, correct the record and save the world — or at least that part of the world for people who are lost in it.

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