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DIY mapping introduced as Google Map Maker hits UK

Google has expanding its Map Maker edit tools to the UK, enabling users to add their own features to the Google Maps service.

British contributors are being asked to add information on their local area, including features within the categories of places, roads, river, railways, building outlines, natural features and political boundaries.

Users will also be able to edit pre-existing objects and places to make them more geographically accurate.

At first, users’ additions will be reviewed by other users and Google staff to confirm their authenticity before they go live, but after a contributor has added several accurate landmarks, they will be able to make changes to Google Maps using the Map Maker tool without moderation.

“We have a trust moderation system in place and that algorithmically figures out whether we can trust this person and how sensitive the feature is,” said project manager Jessica Pfund to the BBC. “No matter how trusted you are if you change a very prominent feature, like a Tate art gallery, it’s going to have to go through a lot more moderation than if you add a small restaurant to the rural countryside.”

The UK availability of the Google Map Maker tool was announced today on the Lat-Long blog, and is testing the feature at Bletchley Park, the site where British codebreakers cracked the Nazi Enigma cipher during World War II.

Google Map Maker was launched in 2008 to around 14 countries with small populations, including Bermuda and Iceland. Users were able to edit lonely places like Antarctica and Svalbard, as well as adding details to the maps of Pakistan, Vietnam and even rather inaccessible countries like North Korea.

The search engine giant will also be extending the Map Maker edit tools to countries such as the US, Australia and France, but faces “technical obstacles to overcome” when merging data from Map Maker with Google Maps, so will be rolling the service out slowly worldwide.

Users are recommended to head to their desktops to use Google Map Maker, as Google admits the editing tools are not working well on mobile devices.

Anyone thinking of contributing should bear in mind the Google Map Maker terms and conditions which read: “You give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive licence to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display, distribute, and create derivative works of the user submission.”

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