Today, Google announced that its Map Maker tool, which let users edit information and suggest changes in Google Maps, will be shut down in March of 2017. In its place, the same editing and suggestion features will be migrated to the main Google Maps app as part of the company’s Local Guides program, which rewards people for policing and improving local mapping data for their community by granting access to beta features and gifting Google Drive storage.
Map Maker initially started in 2008 as a way to crowdsource information from rural areas that Google’s own toolset was ill-equipped at obtaining on its own. Over time, the community of Map Maker editors and moderators, who were tasked with overseeing and approving changes made to public data on Google Maps, grew into a group of millions of users. Some of the user behaviors that originated on Map Maker eventually informed new features found in the public version of Google Maps, including the ability to add new places and describe existing locations with more detail.
However, the Map Maker community was not without its fair share of bad press. The most high-profile incident occurred last year, when a Map Maker user snuck in an elaborate drawing of the Android robot urinating on an Apple logo. This led to the Map Maker tool being temporarily shut down while Google revamped its moderation practices. Now, by relying on Local Guides’ rewards program instead of allowing anyone and everyone to submit edits, the Maps team may see an uptick in helpful reviews, location edits, and user-generated info.