If you really want to get to know a place, it’s best to turn to a local, or at least someone who’s been there. Now, digital maps let you tap into user-generated, or “crowd-sourced,” information to give you the kind of tips and advice that once only a local could provide.
Like a Wikipedia for cartography, the new openstreetmap.com or Mapnik mode on Bing Maps allows users to create and edit markers for points of interest on maps anywhere in the world. The result: a level of specificity and immediacy that includes the location of each animal at the Berlin Zoo or up-to-date streets for the ever-changing grid in Dubai. Gowalla’s new Highlights feature, meanwhile, lets users add their favorite pizza, coffee, shop, city, and more to their profiles—picks that show up on maps at gowalla.com. Foodspotting.com lets users share custom maps annotated with photographs of their favorite dishes from restaurants. On the site now: guides from Jennifer 8. Lee and Marcus Samuelsson, among other diners.
Even video is coming into the mix. New York City will soon have myblocknyc.com—a crowd-sourced map that has user-submitted videos of specific locations. “This is essentially a new map of NYC—removed from the satellite perspective and engaged from a human perspective,” says cofounder Alex Kalman. Technology may have killed the paper map, but it’s given birth to a new way of creating and experiencing maps that are fully people-powered.