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Collaborative mapping is the aggregation of web maps and user-generated content, from a group of individuals or entities, and can take several distinct forms. With the growth of technology for storing and sharing maps, collaborative maps have become competitors to commercial services, in the case of OpenStreetMap or components of them, as in Google Map Maker.
Collaborative Mapping applications vary depending on which feature the collaborative edition takes place: on the map itself (shared surface), or on overlays to the map. A very simple collaborative mapping application would just plot users' locations (Social mapping or geosocial networking) or Wikipedia articles' locations (Placeopedia). Collaborative implies the possibility of edition by several distinct individuals so the term would tend to exclude applications such as wayfaring where the maps are not meant for the general user to modify.
In this kind of application, the map itself is created collaboratively by sharing a common surface. For example, both OpenStreetMap and WikiMapia allow for the creation of single 'points of interest', as well as linear features and areas. Collaborative mapping and specifically surface sharing faces the same problems as revision control, namely concurrent access issues and versioning. In addition to these problems, collaborative maps must deal with the difficult issue of cluttering, due to the geometric constraints inherent in the media. One approach to this problem is using overlays.
Overlays group together items on a map, allowing the user of the map to toggle the overlay's visibility and thus all items contained in the overlay. The application uses map tiles from a third-party (for example one of the mapping APIs) and adds its own collaboratively edited overlays to them, sometimes in a Wiki fashion. If each user's revisions are contained in an overlay, the issue of revision control and cluttering can be mitigated.
Other overlays-based collaborative mapping tools follow a different approach and focus on user centered content creation and experience. There users enrich maps with their own points of interest and build kind of travel books for themselves. At the same time users can explore overlays of other users as collaborative extension.
According to Edward Mac Gillavry there is a dichotomy between corporate projects and user-driven projects. With corporate initiatives generally using a one-way information flow from the service provider to the subscriber and user driven projects generally being characterized by a two way information flow.
Several big internet companies launched mapping applications with collaborative features, most importantly Yandex.Maps with the Yandex.People's map feature. Although Yandex allows flexible mash up style use of their raster map images, the Yandex.People's map system presents a one-way flow at the level of raw map data, from the community to Yandex.
Humanitarian Collaborative Mapping
Humanitarian Open Streetmap provides collaborative mapping support for humanitarian objectives, e.g. collaborative transportation map, epidemiological mapping for Malaria or earthquake response. Contrast to commercial harvesting of mapping data Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team provides a non-corporate collaborative mapping system based on OpenStreetMap, which allows all raw map data to be downloaded freely and openly via API requests or full "planet" download
Private local collaboration using maps
Some mapping companies offer an online mapping tool that allows private collaboration between users when mapping sensitive data on digital maps, e.g.:
- Geosocial networking
- Google Map Maker
- List of GPS Software for Mobile Phones
- List of wikis
- Participatory 3D Modelling (P3DM)
- Participatory GIS
- Public Participation GIS
- Volunteered geographic information
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