No matter how much 3D, imagery, flash, and other impressive functionality you build into maps, data are the core of the experience. And improving local data is like building the pyramids in a sense. It takes lots of effort from many people. For this reason Google opened up Google Maps to community editing in March this year (something Yahoo had done previously). And the Google Local Business Center solicits listings information directly from local businesses.
Local data providers such as Localeze are also trying to get more accurate and complete data directly from businesses.
Today, data that appear on maps come from many sources. Often it starts with telco data or yellow pages directories that are shipped offshore and manually keyed into a database that is then cleaned up and resold to portals and directory sites online. Sometimes, data providers use call centers (e.g., InfoUSA) to verify listings (these databases are often sold also to direct mail houses). As a side note, the US Supreme Court case that made all this possible is Feist Publications vs. Rural Telephone Service Co. (1991), which dealt with the question of to what degree information in a telephone book could be protected by copyright. The court ruled it largely could not.
Navteq and TeleAtlas, both recently purchased (Navteq by Nokia, TeleAtlas by TomTom), are also essential data providers in the mapping and local ecosystem. And most of the major online mapping sites use data from both. Google gets data from both and from many other sources.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Google has now signed a new contract with TeleAtlas, which includes something new. TeleAtlas will now get access to data corrected by Google or its community of users. Presumably this, among other efforts, will improve the data that TeleAtlas sells and resells to others:
Users of TomTom’s automotive navigation devices can send map corrections directly to TomTom, which are then verified and integrated into Tele Atlas’ maps. TomTom gets around 10,000 corrections a day from users, according to [TeleAtlas spokesperson] Titiular. The latest agreement enables Google’s community of users to also submit corrections.
The TeleAtlas deal will extend into mobile mapping as well. This distributed maps editing model is increasingly the norm across the internet, and GPS-based mobile handsets will also soon contribute to improved local data.
Getting your data to appear in Google Universal Search Local/Maps results (“ten pack”) will be among the many tactical discussions at SMX Local-Mobile. If you’re thinking about attending and haven’t yet registered, you should do so today.