Open Street Maps is known as the “Wikipedia” of maps, where anyone can go and edit a location if they want, and Wikipedia is known for not being a credible reference. Where as on the other hand, Google Maps is very well known, and a reliable source for geography, but Google Maps doesn’t always have all places marked on the map. So which map is more reliable?
If you wanted to go for a bushwalk, a dirt-walking track probably won’t be mapped on Google Maps, but if you were to look for bush walks on Open Street Maps, there would be many more options because of other individuals who edit in their favorite bush walking tracks. But does this make the Open Street Maps more reliable or less?
I heard a story about Wikipedia once where a student copied the whole Wikipedia page on a subject for an essay, and to avoid being accused of plagiarism, the student edited the Wikipedia page so that all the information as incorrect. Therefore any student who then went to Wikipedia to copy information, got incorrect information, and the student did not get accused of plagiarism. This is an example when an ‘open to the public edit’ source became unreliable. So what if someone decided that they wanted to screw up the system for a bizarre reason and edited Open Street Maps so an area was given incorrect information and locations?
I rely heavily on Google Maps, not just because of its accuracy, but because up until recently, I wasn’t too aware of many other maps. The power of Google should never be underestimated, and because of its popularity and accuracy, it was just about the only map I had heard about. Google Maps is very reliable because of its gatekeepers, no one can go in and edit something away, and if you were to drive somewhere, the map is very simply organized. To compare both Open Street Maps and Google Maps, there are obvious differences. Open Street Maps can be very confusing at first look, but when zoomed out has much more information, where as Google Maps is very simplistic and lacks details from afar.
At roughly the same zoom of the same area, Open Street Maps has much more information, where as Google Maps is more simplistic and lacks detail until zoomed in further.
Both maps are reliable, but knowing that anyone can edit Open Street Maps, just like Wikipedia, make it less reliable in my opinion. But both have their benefits, if you were to require more detail or something that might generally not be mapped, then Open Street Maps is the map for you. But if you wanted simple and reliable, then go for Google Maps.
Rethams, 2011, What Is OpenStreetMap?, Available From: < https://derickrethans.nl/what-is-openstreetmap.html >
Oliver, 2012, Iffy-pedia: Up to six in ten articles in Wikipedia contain factual errors, Available From: < http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2131458/Up-articles-Wikipedia-contain-factual-errors.html >
Segev, 2010, Google and the Digital Divide: The bias of online knowledge, Available From: < https://books.google.com.au/books?hl=en&lr=&id=_Y9wAgAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&dq=does+google+maps+have+a+bias&ots=tFxnr9K1Xf&sig=4ebQ3X4ZVJ_kkjSmqP1aqzRzDG8#v=onepage&q=does%20google%20maps%20have%20a%20bias&f=false >