Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Universal Map, Apple or Google?

From 2011 to 2015 Justine O'Beirne led Apple's mapping efforts. He' been writing some interesting essays. From 2015, The Universal Map: Cartography's Most Important Moment is Rapidly Approaching:
Just thirty years ago—and for most of human history—a cartographer would make a map, print and distribute it, and hope that maybe a few thousand or so people would ever use it before it went out of date. Apart from a handful of atlases and classroom maps, most maps had small, local audiences, went out of date quickly, and were often difficult to read and understand—let alone share.

Fast forward to today, and cartography has since undergone a number of profound changes:
  • An unprecedented level of detail is now available to the average person, for little or no cost. ...
  • Maps are now always up to date. ...
  • Maps fit us, regardless of who or where we are. ...
  • Maps are integrated with robust search & routing. ...
  • Advanced sensors keep us apprised of our current location, 24 hours a day. ... 
These are all profound technical changes, 10x improvements that are hugely impactful in their own right. But there’s an even deeper, more profound cultural change seemingly on the horizon:

And he's just published the first part of a four-part comparison between Google Maps and Apple Maps, the current leading candidates for the first universal map. The first part looks at map contents, cities, roads, and places:
We looked at 54 pairs of maps across three cities (New York, San Francisco, and London) and found several significant differences (POI = point of interest):
  • Apple Maps, on average, labels more cities than Google at every zoom.
  • Google Maps, on average, labels more roads than Apple on nearly every zoom.
  • For two-thirds of zooms, both maps generally show the same number of roads. For the remaining third, Apple almost always shows more roads.
  • Both maps, on average, label a similar number of POIs—but have only 10% of their POIs in common on an average zoom.
  • Both maps also prioritize different kinds of POIs: Google Maps heavily prioritizes transit, while Apple prioritizes landmarks. Apple also generally shows a greater number of POI categories on a given zoom—and shows twice as many restaurants and shops as Google.

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