Social networking and file sharing is revolutionising the planet it would seem. Not a day passes without some mention of Facebook, YouTube or MySpace in the technology news. It certainly seems that everyone I know is using one or other of these three services. But when you think about it, networking and sharing has always been an essential driving force in the world of technology, it's just the way in which we're doing it that has changed over the years.
The Internet itself is the ultimate expression of this where computers are concerned, and mobile phones became ubiquitous because of our desire to stay connected and share information years before people began to join these services and make friends. But what's next? According to TomTom it's sat-nav's turn to get the treatment.
TomTom's latest device - the Go 720 - introduces a function it calls Map Share to the in-car navigation party. With the 720, and other devices in the latest range, users can add to or make changes to mistakes in the onboard maps and upload them for other users to benefit from. The intention, of course, is to put an end to those moments - or at least reduce the frequency with which they occur - where your sat-nav asks you to turn right on a no-right turn junction, make a U-turn in the middle of a motorway, or drive down a private road. Not that you'd ever blindly follow such plainly wrong instructions, of course.
As a system it works pretty well too. Correcting an error or adding your own 'missing' points of interest is simply a process of going to the map corrections screen and choosing from one of several options - anything from unblocking and blocking streets and reversing traffic direction to editing street and place names, and even adding missing streets. And with plenty of options to choose from, downloading changes made by others is a doddle. Just pop the Go 720 into its USB cradle and it'll automatically upload your changes and download the ones you've specified. You can choose to download all corrections, just those that are 'popular', or those that have been checked and ratified by TomTom's mapping teams.
TomTom has clearly put a lot of thought into the feature and it's certainly an innovative step forward, but despite all that it does have one major flaw. As it stands, the system is only likely to be used by those who know an area very well as it's impossible to mark errors on the fly. Driving past a no-right-turn junction in London after the 720 asked me to drive down it, I'd have liked to have marked it on the map to remind me where the error occurred. But there's no way of doing this and the number of people willing to stop and pull over just to correct a map error, I suspect, is going to be few and far between.