Google Map Maker Expands to Italy, Vatican, Bulgaria

Google's Map Maker service lets people add valuable local details to Google Maps so they can be constantly improved.

Google is again expanding its Map Maker program around the world by opening it for the first time to residents in Italy, Bulgaria, San Marino and even Vatican City so that more local color, flavor and details can be added to existing Google Maps.

"Share the delights of Bulgaria's Black Sea Coast by adding all of your favorite destinations in the famed resort city of Golden Sands," wrote Nilesh Tathawadekar, a software engineer for Google Maps, in an Aug. 20 post on the Google Europe Blog. "Lend a hand by improving driving directions through the Italian Riviera, or trace the best hiking trails across San Marino's Apennine Mountains. Your updates will be reviewed, and once approved, will appear on Google Maps, Google Earth, and Google Maps for Mobile for people all over the world to see."

The idea behind Google Map Maker is that the editing tool enables people around the world to contribute their local knowledge and expertise directly to Google Maps by submitting their information for inclusion in the maps. "By sharing information about the places you know best, you can ensure that the map accurately reflects the world around you," wrote Tathawadekar. Interested participants can join other mappers on the Google Map Maker community forum, explore the Help Center for tips and tricks, or watch mapping in real time through Google's Map Maker Pulse, he wrote.

Google has been regularly adding to the countries where Map Maker is available for use. In April, Map Maker expanded to England for the first time.

Google Map Maker, which launched in 2008, rolled out in the United States in April 2011, allowing citizens to add cartographic details about locations and businesses around the country. The service is now available for more than 200 countries and regions, according to Google.

Map Maker allows amateur cartographers to visually mark locations and add detailed information to Google Maps data, which helps make Google's own maps even richer. Users can detail their favorite local restaurants, malls and shops, or even mark town bike lanes. Users can also access Google Street View imagery directly in Map Maker and access advanced search options to display finer details such as railroad tracks.

Google Map Maker is available in 59 languages, including Bulgarian, French, Italian, Russian, Spanish and Swahili.

In January, Google Maps began receiving contributions from "citizen cartographers" in North Korea to improve the detail of Google Maps in that nation, according to an earlier eWEEK report. The map data provided details of many little seen areas in that nation through the help of the volunteers. North Korea had long been one of the largest places with little map data, according to Google.

And though the maps of North Korea are improved, they still don't equal the detail and quality of maps from other nations where the flow of information is not controlled by the government. An older Google map of the North Korean city of Pyongyang was very stark, with only the name of the city superimposed over a spot on the map. The newly updated version isn't completely detailed, but now includes several roadways that stretch through the area as well as the names of several nearby cities.