Ivan’s private site

August 11, 2013

The value of community driven content (OSM vs. Google Map)

Filed under: Private,Social aspects,Work Related — Ivan Herman @ 12:51

Notre dame de la gardeThis is just a nice little example which might be worth noting for those who do not know Open Street Map (I am also a relatively new user of it).

I had a nice walk in Marseille yesterday, which included going down from the big cathedral on the top of the hill (“Notre Dame de La Garde“) to the seaside. There is a not-very-well-known path behind the church that one can take which is, for my taste anyway, a gorgeous way of doing it.

The path of course appears on Google’s Map: look at the small path going from the church to the “Rue du Bois Sacré”. However: look at the same area using Open Street Map: not only is the path there, but it gives a bunch of details. Indeed, it is not really a simple path: it is a long series of steps, i.e., do not try to drive even a bike there:-( And because it is a hot city, it is also good to know that there is small public fountain along the path (and, indeed, it is there and it works!)…

It is not really Google’s fault. They probably got the material from some sort of an official mapping system (they could not get their camera cars or bikes up there…) and there is no way a company, even as huge as Google, can cover such details. But a community-driven site can: people can add such details easily. (Actually, there was part of the path that was missing, and I will add it soon using my GPS readings.) Therein lies the power:-)


  1. Google maps allows users to edit as well now, in many (but not yet all) places. I’ve contributed there, but I never really looked at whether my contributions are openly shared by Google, or owned by them.

    Comment by Jacek Kopecky — August 11, 2013 @ 14:19

    • Hi Jacek! Yep, I have heard about this, and I still have to test it for myself. And it is fine with me; my post was not meant as some sort of an anti-google stand but, rather, to emphasize that some sort of a crowd-sourcing has a huge and still under-exploited value. If Google recognizes and uses that: kudos to them. (Your remark on ownership is of course important, but that is another aspect…)

      Comment by Ivan Herman — August 11, 2013 @ 14:27

  2. Compare Novoural’sk, Sverdlovsk region on Google http://goo.gl/maps/z9m4a and OpenStreetMap http://osm.org/go/2Ymejkcl

    Comment by Aleksei — August 12, 2013 @ 16:09

    • Wow. The difference is pretty spectacular:-)

      Comment by Ivan Herman — August 12, 2013 @ 17:16

  3. I would say that Google, as using kind of “official” geodata, has homogeneous data, so the same detail everywhere. In OSM this aspect is totally different. Both Google and OSM cover or try to cover the whole world, there are global projects, but maps for Google are made by companies or NMAs, but OSM is made by lots of users with different skills, interests and local knowledge. The richness of OSM is of course this local knowledge, but the heterogeneity of data is a problem for using as a base map for some regions. There are a lot of studies comparing OSM and official data and OSM is better in some places (urban places) and it’s less complete in rural areas, as expected.
    Said that, the license is a big problem. All you edit in Google belongs to Google, they are a company, it’s fair, I guess. But OSM is a real free project. You can use the data, edit the data, whatever, for whatever purpose for free. And this is a big difference, and the reason why lots of companies are starting to use OSM as their base map. And it is also the reason why a lot of research is emerging on OSM quality, trying to make it a useful source of geoinformation.
    With this tool: http://tools.geofabrik.de/mc/
    You can see at the same time the same place in Google and OSM, if you are interested.
    Thanks for the post, really interesting!

    Comment by Jimena Martinez — August 14, 2013 @ 19:54

    • Thanks to the pointer for that tool!

      And yes, I agree with your analysis…

      Comment by Ivan Herman — August 16, 2013 @ 15:57

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