Citizens Add to Google Maps -- Even Imaginary Ones

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If you've ever had Google Maps literally send you up the river or down a sidewalk, you may have wondered whether the company ever actually sees the areas it maps.

Now, it does, through an increasing number of volunteers who make corrections and add more detail to maps, according to an article in the New York Times.

Google has stopped using commercial databases such as Tele Atlas, choosing instead to use freely available government databases, as well as input from users. "[W]e've worked directly with a wide range of authoritative information sources to create a new base map dataset," according to the Google Earth and Maps blog. "In our experience, these organizations that create the data do the best job of keeping it accurate and up-to-date.

Even Tele Atlas itself is starting to incorporate input from users, though it does not rely on it, the New York Times said. Beyond that, organizations such as WikiMapia and OpenStreetMap are open-source maps created by users.

However, users have been unable to determine the existence of a U.K. town called Argleton, though it is described in Google Maps, according to a different New York Times story.

"When Mr Bayfield reached Argleton – which appears on Google Maps between Aughton and Aughton Park – he found just acres of green, empty fields," the New York Times reported.

Paper maps often include minor imaginary streets to enable the map copyright holders to see whether their maps are being published elsewhere, and it is speculated that Argleton fulfills the same role for Google Maps, though Google said it was an error. However, though the company said the town would be removed, it is still there as of today.