|The Olympic ski area is virtually a blank on Google's map (right)|
compared to Open Street Map.
The region outside Sochi where the Olympic ski and snowboard events will be held is virtually a pale green blank on Google maps, for example. The maps here come from the fun and fabulously time-sucking Map Compare tool on the website of Geofabrik, a German company developing commercial uses for OSM data. The Olympic park along the coast, and even downtown Sochi are also covered in more detail in OSM (although with some features that appear on one map but not the other, it’s not clear which is more accurate — at least not without being there).
Google still has a huge advantage in navigation — typing an address into your phone and getting step-by-step directions to your destination. That’s the next step in OSM’s evolution, OSM founder Steve Coast wrote in a recent blog post announcing that Telenav, the personal navigation company he joined last year, had acquired skobbler, a German company that developed a popular OSM-based GPS navigation app.
But the real power of OSM is its users — more than 1.5 million people have registered to edit its maps, mapping some parts of the world down to the level of shrubbery. OSM maps can be as detailed as people care to make them. You can see this in the final map in this gallery, which shows OSM edits to the area around the Sochi Olympic park in the past 90 days. People have been busy mapping.
And with all the visitors to the area, the maps are only likely to get more detailed over the next few weeks — assuming some of the spectators can find time between events to plot a few footpaths and buildings.