Remember MapQuest?

Search Engine Land: “Earlier this week Mapquest was sold by corporate parent Verizon to System1, an ad-tech company you’ve probably never heard of for an undisclosed amount, which was ‘not material enough for Verizon to file paperwork.’ That’s a metaphor for how far Mapquest has fallen since its heyday as the dominant online mapping site roughly a decade or so ago.” Verizon got MapQuest as part of its purchase of AOL in 2015. [Brian, James]

What Happened to the Society of Cartographers?

The Society of Cartographers posted a notice on Twitter announcing the formal dissolution of the Society after its upcoming (and now presumably final) Annual Summer School Conference. That conference will be held in conjunction with the British Cartographic Society’s Annual Conference on 11 and 12 September at the Ordnance Survey’s Southampton headquarters.

Apart from reactions like Kenneth Field’s, there is no other information about the Society’s dissolution available online, though I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s been discussion in members-only areas. What on earth happened? (Comments open.)

Previously: Whither the BCS?

Complaints about Facebook’s Automated Edits in Thailand

Facebook’s AI tool has added some 480,000 kilometres of previously unmapped roads in Thailand to OpenStreetMap, BBC News reports, but some local mappers have been complaining about the quality of those edits, and the overwriting of existing edits by Facebook’s editors: see OSM Forum threads here and here. In particular, see OSM contributor Russ McD’s rant on the Thai Visa Forum:

What Facebook fail to state is the inaccurate manner in which their AI mapping worked. The OSM community in Thailand had for years, been working slowly on mapping the Country, with the aim of producing a free to use and accurate map for any user. Information was added backed by a strong local knowledge, which resulted in a usable GPS navigation system based on OSM data. Main road were main roads, and jungle tracks were tracks.

Then along came Facebook with its unlimited resources and steamrollered a project in Thailand with scant regard for contributors … sure they paid lip service to us, with offers of collaboration, and contact emails … but in reality, all our comments went unanswered, or simply ignored.

Sure, their imagery identified roads we had not plotted, but along with that came the irrigation ditches, the tracks though rice paddies, driveways to private houses, and in once case, an airport runway! All went on the map as “residential roads”, leaving any GPS system free to route the user on a physical challenge to make it to their destination.

Local users commented, but the geeky humans who were checking the AI, living thousands of miles away, having never visited Thailand, just ignored our comments. They would soon move onto bigger and better things, while sticking this “success” down on their resume.

Sounds like another case of local mapping vs. armchair mapping and automated edits, where local mappers are swamped and discouraged by edits from elsewhere. [Florian Ledermann]

Previously: OpenStreetMap at the Crossroads.

‘You Are Blowing It’

Tom MacWright thinks that online maps are neglecting bicycle and multimodal routing at the expense of driving directions, which keep getting better.

Routing is the most powerful tool we have to reduce the environmental impact of driving, make cities quieter, safer, and more livable, and fight congestion. And you are blowing it.

This might be because HERE, the number two provider of map technologies, was bought by a bunch of car companies. Or because Google is headquartered in the suburbs. Or that the financial world is fixated on opening the pandora’s box of self-driving cars.

But the end result is the same: bicycle and multimodal routing continues to be a toy, and driving directions keep getting better.

This might well be about systems designed for in-car navigation first, or designed to replace them; or that are aimed at what is perceived to be the meat of the market. There are undoubtedly solutions out there that address Tom’s points, but there’s something to be said for having that solution front and centre in a mainstream service rather than having to find it in a less well-known app or a dedicated device.

Garmin Announces the Overlander, An Offroading GPS Receiver

Garmin Overlander (Garmin)
Garmin

Garmin announced the Overlander GPS receiver today. It’s designed for off-road, off-grid navigation, with maps that include public lands boundaries and 4×4 trails (in the Americas, at least), sensors to detect roll and pitch angles, and other features suitable for mucking around in a Jeep or ATV. Costs $700. [Engadget]

Anyone who assumes that the GPS device market has been killed by smartphones will be (a) surprised that Garmin is still around and (b) wrong. Though its automotive segment continues to decline—last quarter it was down to only 16.6 percent of Garmin’s revenues, making it Garmin’s smallest market segment—Garmin continues to do well in other market segments. Building devices for very specialized uses, for which a smartphone app might not be up for the task—see above—seems to be one of the ways it goes about that.

More on Stanfords’s Move and Paper Maps’ Comeback

Another article on the comeback of paper maps that is really about the move of the venerable map and travel bookstore Stanfords’s London store to new digs, this time from Nicholas Crane in the Financial Times. He maunders a bit, as do many map aficionados when we get started, and ends up becoming a paean to Stanfords’s old paper maps as much as anything else. [Gilles Palsky]

Previously: Stanfords Cartographer: ‘Paper Is Going to Make a Comeback’; Stanfords Is Moving.

Stanfords Cartographer: ‘Paper Is Going to Make a Comeback’

You know who isn’t worried about the future of paper maps and whether people still know how to use them? The people who actually sell them. The Guardian’s Kevin Rushby talks to Stanfords cartographer Martin Greenaway, ostensibly on the occasion of the venerable map store’s move to new digs in London; Greenaway thinks that paper maps are ripe for a comeback (Stanfords does a lot of print-on-demand maps), and points out a number of other map use cases that a mobile device simply can’t be used for. [CAG]

Stanfords Is Moving

British map and travel bookstore Stanfords is moving its London store from its venerable Long Acre location, where they’ve been since 1901 (!), to a new building on Mercer Walk, all of 200 metres away. They cite a need for more back-office space for their online business. The new store is officially scheduled to open in January, but the ground floor will be open as a gift boutique later this month. [TimeOut London/MAPS-L]

Purple Lizard Maps

Purple Lizard mapEvery now and again I discover another local mapmaking company whose products are familiar to, even well-loved by, well, the locals, but not much known elsewhere: the A-Z maps and London; the Maine Atlas and Gazetteer; Kroll and Seattle; Wunnenberg and St. Louis; Sherlock and Winnipeg (that one I knew about, being from there). Add another company to that list: Purple Lizard Maps, which produces a line of outdoor recreation maps that focuses mostly (but not exclusively) on central Pennsylvania. The Center County Gazette talks to Michael Hermann, who founded Purple Lizard in 1997. [WMS]

Previously: John Loacker and the Kroll Map Company; A Paper Maps Roundup.

Anti-Semitic Map Vandalism Strikes Mapbox

An incident of map vandalism roiled the Internet last week. Users of several online services, including CitiBike, Foursquare and SnapChat, discovered that New York City had been relabelled “Jewtropolis” on the services’ maps: see coverage at Gizmodo, Mashable and TechCrunch. The problem was quickly traced to Mapbox, which provides maps to these services. Mapbox, understandably upset about the act of vandalism, soon figured out what the hell happened.

The problem was traced to OpenStreetMap, one of Mapbox’s data sources. On August 10 an OSM user renamed a number of New York landmarks, as well as New York itself, after a number of alt-right and neo-Nazi memes. The edits were quickly reverted and the user blocked—on OpenStreetMap. They nevertheless entered the Mapbox review pipeline, where they were, in fact, caught and flagged on the 16th, but a human editor mistakenly okayed the renaming of New York to Jewtropolis. A simple human error, but with a delayed fuse: the edit turned up on Mapbox’s public map two weeks later. When all hell broke loose on the 30th, the map was fixed within a few hours.

Vandalism of online maps isn’t a new thing: in 2015 Google ran into trouble when a series of juvenile map edits exposed the shortcomings of the Map Maker program’s moderation system and led to a temporary suspension of Map Maker (it closed for good in 2017) and an apology from Google. Anything involving user contributions needs a moderation system, and OpenStreetMap and Mapbox both have them. But moderation systems can and do still fail from time to time. (That’s a take on this incident that isn’t on Bill Morris’s list.)

Entrepreneur Magazine Profiles Bellerby

Bellerby & Co.

Entrepreneur magazine profiles Peter Bellerby, the founder of globemaking company Bellerby and Company. We’ve seen a lot of Bellerby profiles over the past few years, but this one goes into more depth than most. The story of the company’s founding (Peter wanted to make a globe for his father’s 80th birthday, et cetera) is retold, but we get some more detail about the size and volume of its business today: “This year, the company should turn around about 750 globes, compared to 500 last year—and the current wait list stands between six months and two years depending on globe size. Revenue-wise, the company will likely net about 3 million pounds (close to $4 million) in 2018.” That’s … that’s something. [WMS]

Google Maps Changes API Pricing, Competitors Respond

Earlier this year Google Maps changed the terms of its API and in the process jacked up its prices, leaving web developers to consider other alternatives. These include (among others) OpenStreetMap, which posted a switching guide in June; Apple, which announced its API for websites that same month; and Here Maps, which (a) is still around1 and (b) has announced a freemium plan with reasonably generous transaction limits. As Engadget points out, Google’s trying to profit off its market dominance; its competitors, seeing an opening, are making their move. [Engadget]

Map Dealer Carole Spack Profiled

Last month the MetroWest Daily News profiled Framington, MA map dealer Carole Spack of Original Antique Maps, whose path to the business sounds rather familiar: “Six years ago, she bought several 150-year-old maps of Worcester County showing towns that were later submerged when the area was flooded to create the Quabbin Reservoir, where she often hikes. Intrigued by their detailed evocation of a vanished time, Spack has since acquired 2,000 rare maps ranging from Colonial America to rural China all the way to hand-colored engravings of the ‘Geography of the Heavens’ by an obscure early-19th century astronomer.” [WMS]

John Loacker and the Kroll Map Company

It’s nice to see media coverage of a map publisher or store that doesn’t involve it going out of business. The Seattle Times looks at a local institution, the Kroll Map Company, which has been mapping the city and its environs for more than a century, and its current owner, John Loacker.

The survival of a company like Kroll is a small act of rebellion against the forces reshaping the city by the day. And yet lately, John has wondered what will become of the business his grandfather bought in 1920 and his father worked at for 72 years. John is also a co-owner of Metsker Maps, a retail store in Pike Place Market, but he leaves the day-to-day operations there to others. He is the sole owner of Kroll.

“I have to craft my exit,” he says.

[MAPS-L]