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Placing Wikimapia: an exploratory analysis

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Wikimapia is a major privately owned volunteered geographic information (VGI) project to collect information about places. Over the past 10 years, Wikimapia has attracted hundreds of thousands of contributors and collected millions of data points, including towns, restaurants, lakes and tourist attractions (http://wikimapia.org). Unlike OpenStreetMap, Wikimapia adopts a ‘placial’ perspective, favouring rich descriptions over detailed geometries and encouraging the collection of textual and visual content about places with approximate footprints. In this article, we first trace the origin and development of Wikimapia as a for-profit project, intimately linked with search engine advertising. Drawing on an in-depth interview with a former developer, we analyse project’s data model and characteristics of its community. As Wikimapia discussions are rife with copyright issues, we discuss the project’s intellectual property, as well as its strategies for quality management. Second, we focus on the popularity of the project, which is crucial to the longevity and sustainability of VGI projects. Using behavioural data from Google Trends, we trace a geography of Interest in Wikimapia, comparing with that in OpenStreetMap, from a temporal and spatial perspective. While OpenStreetMap attracts more interest in high-income countries, Wikimapia emerges as relatively more popular in low- and middle-income countries, countering the received notion of VGI as a Global North phenomenon. Our study suggests that Wikimapia’s popularity is steadily declining.
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Keywords: Internet geography; OpenStreetMap; Wikimapia; crowdmapping; crowdsourcing; data quality; user-generated content; volunteered geographic information

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Geography, Birkbeck, University of London, London, UK 2: Department of Development & Planning, Aalborg University, Copenhagen, Denmark

Publication date: August 3, 2019

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