Google to shut down Map Maker, its crowdsourced map editing tool

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Since 2008, Google has run an online tool called Map Maker that allows anyone worldwide to contribute data to Google Maps. Now, that tool is shutting down. The company announced today in its online forum for the project that the Google Map Maker service, as a standalone product, is retiring in March 2017. However, crowdsourced contributions to Google Maps are not ending, the company noted – instead, those will be transitioned to Google’s Local Guides program.

Local Guides, to some extent, is a modernized version of the years-old Map Maker service.

The older service offered an online tool and editor that let anyone submit updates to Google Maps, which moderators could then approve. The larger goal was to fill out Google Maps with road and business information in less developed regions where detailed local maps were not as readily available.

However, as you may recall, Map Maker’s crowdsourced functionality also got Google into trouble in years past. For example, in 2015, Map Maker was used to vandalize Google Maps with an image of Google’s Android character urinating on the Apple logo. The company had to shut down Map Maker temporarily, following this and other spam attacks and obscene edits.

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Even as Map Maker was struggling to police its community, Google was developing its Local Guides program.

The initiative, which began something like Google’s own version of Yelp Elites, today offers a way for volunteers to contribute to Google Maps and Google business listings, in exchange for points, rewards, as well as invites to special events and early access new features.

Guides can earn points for a variety of tasks, like writing reviews, adding or editing places, posting photos, and more.

Map Maker, however, offers an expanded feature set, including the ability to edit roads, for example. Its unique feature set will be merged with Local Guides in preparation for the March 2017 shutdown, as well as after Map Maker is closed.

As the features become available, they’ll be posted to both product websites: Map Maker Help Forum and on LocalGuidesConnect.com.

In addition, starting today, edits submitted to Google Maps will no longer be available Map Maker for moderation. This is so Google can streamline its efforts and speed up the time it takes to publish these edits, says the company.

The shutdown makes sense given the overlap between the two initiatives, Map Maker and Local Guides. The shift should also cut down on the spamming and vandalism problems, thanks to the newer systems for editing and approvals.

However, whether or not Google will be able to shift its full set of Map Maker editing tools to the newer platform by the time Map Maker shuts its doors still remains to be seen.

Google used to announce its product shutdowns in larger batches, dubbed ‘spring cleanings.’ But this time around (and in the fall), the company has been more quietly closing up services without the fanfare. Yesterday, for instance, it shut down its move site, Google Showtimes.

“Over the past year, we’ve rolled out new, easy ways for people to help keep Google Maps up to date by allowing them to make edits directly from the Google Maps app and through Google Search. Based on these efforts, in addition to our new Local Guides program, we’ve decided to retire Map Maker in order to improve and expedite the Maps editing experience on both mobile and desktop,” a Google spokesperson told TechCrunch, about the company’s decision to end Map Maker.

“We greatly appreciate the millions of edits the Map Maker community has contributed over the years and encourage them to continue adding their local knowledge to Google Maps through our recently launched contribution channels and by joining the growing community of Local Guides,” they added.

The full announcement about Map Maker is below:

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