All eyes are on Tehran right now. As the center of the Iranian election protests the city has become increasingly important to websites this week. To keep their site up-to-date with this latest crisis area Flickr switched out the Yahoo road Map with Open Street Map. When I heard about this I wondered how other major mapping sites faired.
So I examined the road and satellite maps of Yahoo, Mapquest, Google, and Bing (formerly Live Maps). Looking at the images below it becomes very clear that user-generated maps win in hard to reach places. Both Open Street Map (above) and Google (below) rely on user-contributions. Open Street Map relies almost entirely on user uploaded GPS tracks for its mapping data across the world. After the jump i’ve included the satellite maps from each service (except for Mapquest who did not have them). They were
Google is using data acquired from their just-under-a-year-old Mapmaker program (Radar post). With Mapmaker users can add roads, POIs, regions and features. It’s a very powerful tool that has greatly expanded Google coverage. Google has been slow and deliberate in using Mapmaker data on their main site. In fact it was just a couple of weeks ago that Iran’s mapmaker data “graduated” to the main site. There are now 64 countries on Google that have been updated with Mapmaker data.
This isn’t the first time Flickr has done this (Radar post). They’ve also used Open Street Map for Beijing, Black Rock City (2008), Tokyo, Buenos Aires, Adelaide, Sydney, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Baghdad, Kabul, Kinshasa, Mogadishu, Harare, Nairobi, Accra, Cairo, and Algiers.
So what’s holding back Microsoft, Yahoo and Mapquest? Unknown, but hopefully they’ll realize that their top-down approach isn’t working.
Compare the Maps for yourself:
Note: I have included data layers where they were available (Google and Microsoft).
(The markers include Wikipedia articles, photos, video, webcams, POIs, and public transit stations)
(The markers include Photosynths, user collections, photos and Wikipedia articles)
(This took a while to find, I had to find the International Maps page and click-thru a couple more pages to get the map)
However, when it comes to satellite maps they are very even: