This past week, Groundspeak announced that it’s switching away from Google Maps and to OSM (another announcement about the changes, explaining why). Looks like Geocaching.com is responsible for something like 2,000,000 hits to Google Maps per day and Google wanted to start charging. Fair enough. But how does this change work in the real world?
Don’t get me wrong, I like OSM. The capability to make edits and refinements to the map data is second to none. Google introduced a similar capability awhile back, and the implementation has been junk, IMO. For example, most mapping websites have a GLARING inaccuracy in my neighborhood. The street I live on is shown with the wrong name, and the street with the correct name is shown in a place where there is no street. Farther to the North, there’s a short street that is very much there, but there’s only one house on it. Sat images clearly show it, but it is not on most mapping sites. I was able to create an OSM account, and fix the problems in my neighborhood. I added a street, deleted another, refined the geometry, and fixed the names. OSM approved the edits and now it’s the only mapping site that shows things CORRECTLY. I was also able to add a local bike trail to the map. I submitted similar edits (minus the bike trail) to Google and those fixes have yet to appear. I don’t even remember how long ago that was.
I certainly appreciate that about OSM.
Some people would be willing to pay a higher premium member fee to bring Google Maps back. My post here isn’t the only one discussing this issue, either (post 1, post 2). In the 2nd link, rediguana suggests a pricing structure which would have folks who wished to use Google’s maps pay extra for that feature to be enabled. There are a lot of creative suggestions out there.
I will say this regarding my own experiences with the maps. Even though I like OSM, I am disappointed with the implementation of them on geocaching.com. I’m having similar experiences to other folks who are getting horribly slow page loads. When I switch to satellite imagery, it barely works at all and I definitely can’t get the map to zoom all the way. Since I use the maps functionality of Geocaching.com pretty heavily, I really can’t get anything done using the mapping on their site.
A lot of the users of the geocaching.com site probably have little prior experience with OSM. I’m sure some do, and are aware of its strengths and weaknesses already. However, for those whose first experience with OSM relates to this debacle, I fear that they’ll be turned off to it in short order. Groundspeak needs to get its act together and fix the buggy code that’s messing things up.
You can draw parallels between this issue and Garmin Connect dropping Google Maps for Bing. Bing’s satellite imagery has come a long way since the initial switch so more rural areas like mine have better coverage. I don’t know about Bing’s worldwide coverage right now, but this OSM switch just screams “hasty deployment” to me because Groundspeak was about to be hit with fees from Google. OSM on geocaching.com is essentially unusable for me right now. Thank goodness I already have GSAK, which still allows me to use Google’s maps when researching caches.
In an ideal world, I think it would behoove Groundspeak to give users as many options as possible for mapping caches. Keep Google’s maps, but add Bing and OSM to give folks choices. Spread out the mapping service hits (make OSM the default, even…just fix it first), and then possibly spreading the load out like that will be less of a burden to any one service. I am suspicious that OSM’s servers weren’t prepared for the traffic geocaching.com was going to add and that the useless maps might be a symptom. Only time will tell.
In the meantime, what do you think of this?