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Cloudmade Mapzen review

Cloudmate Mapzen
Our Rating :

Slick-looking online mapping software for OpenStreetMap, but it's not a revolutionary jump over what's currently available.

OpenStreetMap is to mapping what Wikipedia is to information. It’s a public map that anyone can add detail to, and anyone can use the information therein for their own purposes. Mapzen is an online tool that makes editing this map a bit easier.

The advantages of OpenStreetMap, over commercial alternatives like Google Maps, are huge. Contributors can create detailed maps of areas that commercial providers haven’t bothered with, and specialist spin offs, such as OpenCycleMap, can repurpose the data for specific needs. As anyone can edit the maps, they can be updated quickly when required, for example rescue teams used and adjusted the OpenStreetMap of earthquake-stricken Haiti during the ongoing humanitarian efforts.

OpenStreetMap has an edit tab, which then launches the editor Potlatch, one of many available for the service. There’s not a huge amount to choose between the two, though we like Mapzen for being able to see all the nodes without selecting an individual route, and the simple pop up controls for splitting routes or attaching them together. Mapzen has an easy to browse toolbar of routes, areas and locations at the top, so it’s quick to label a route as a track, an area as a meadow, or a POI as a bus stop.

Mapzen also incorporates a social networking aspect. You can see the location of other users in your areas, make friends with them, and see the changes that they’ve made. If this takes off, then it should help organise those living nearby to co-ordinate their efforts to improve the local map.

Mapzen also produces a compatible mobile application for iPhones. The Mapzen POI (point of interest) Collector is free from the App Store, and lets you add businesses and local amenities to OpenStreetMap while you’re out on the move. Such an application should quickly enrich the map, as you can add detail instantly, rather than waiting till you get home. However, we’d rather see an app for Android handsets, which seem a much better fit for the OpenStreetMap community.

Mapzen isn’t a huge leap forward for OpenStreetMap, but it does have some improvements over current tools and worth a look if you’re interested in creating a publicly owned map of your local area.


Price £0
Rating ****

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