Google Map Maker was released almost three years ago, allowing users in 183 countries to modify the online maps we've become reliant upon. Now Google has extended the reach of Map Maker to include the United States and added new features such as street-level perspective on places with Street View imagery, editable points of interest, and powerful search options that can see small details like railroad tracks.
To start your adventure as an amateur cartographer, head over to the Google Map Maker site and either add pinpoints that weren't there before or adjust incorrect information, like the wrong placement for that liquor store where everybody knows your name.
Google Map Maker requires Internet Explorer 7.0 and later, Firefox 3.6 and later (for Windows, Mac, and Linux), Safari 3.1 and later (for Mac and Windows), or Google Chrome (for Windows and Mac).
Google's instructional video suggests that you map the contours of a college campus, such as adding a shortcut from building to building. It's this kind of crowd-sourced Wiki functionality that will prove helpful to users from all walks of life and make it so you'll never get lost in the cavernous bowels of your campus again.
Since its release in 2008, Google Map Maker has doubled the amount of neighborhood maps worldwide, bringing intricate details to lesser-known places of the world. You can also watch a real-time display (requires Google Earth plug-in) of the edits being made worldwide.
But don't think you can replace your one-bedroom flat with Castle Grayskull -- moderators will be reviewing the changes made by novice mappers, but more experienced users will be allowed to see their edits posted more quickly.
For now, Google Map Maker can only be used through a browser, but I imagine a mobile version will be released in the near future for convenient editing on the go and to align with the company's ambition to become the go-to place for local Groupon-esque deals.
Google Map Maker also aspires to go virally social with the Mapping Party Kit. It's a chance to collect a group of people to flesh out areas on maps that Google hasn't already. This could be a fun and aggressively nerdy way to collaboratively map the intricacies of certain areas, like the aforementioned college campuses.
Join the CIO Australia group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.