The Google Maps team just announced the addition of a new feature to Google Maps: the ability to contribute to and edit maps through Google Map Maker. Users can now edit and moderate various map features, including roads, lakes, power lines, and bike trails among others.
While Google already allows users to create and share new map layers through 'My Maps', this is the first time it is actively looking for help in creating maps (almost) from the ground up.
However, before you get carried away with the hope of wreaking havoc upon the maps of the world, editing is currently only available for a very select group of countries. These include Cyprus, Iceland, Pakistan, Vietnam, as well as the Caribbean nations of Antigua & Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Grenada, Jamaica, Netherlands Antilles, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Trinidad & Tobago.
Basically, these are all countries that could, as the Google Maps team puts it, "benefit tremendously from local knowledge and expertise that you and other map makers posses, and we're excited to see how you put that to use."
Those maps that are currently available for editing vary greatly in the detail already available for them. Barbados already has a relatively complete set of roads, while Vietnam is almost completely devoid of any details outside of the major cities and St. Vincent and the Grenadines are nothing but gray blobs on the map so far.
The editing functions of Map Maker are extremely easy to use and it is probably only a question of time before more users start using their local knowledge to add to these often bare maps. For most of us, however, the real question is when Google will open up the rest of its maps for editing at this low level - or if this is even desirable.