Public Yandex Maps review

This is a translate of article by Ilya Zverev, evangelist of OMS Russia

Yesterday, the Public Yandex Maps turned five years old. In honour of the holiday service interface has been radically changed (Also, service lost most user data).

The beta version of the new Yandex Maps was shown in the autumn of 2013. It is unusual, but modern and unexpectedly easy to learn. Just like the others: instead of the sidebar — a bunch of buttons and search field put on the full-screen map. Yesterday, the beta version replaced the main. Our user paid attention to a similar change in the design of the Public Yandex Maps (PYM), and another user positively compared the speed of his work with iD. Great gift, cheers. But why do they write in the Yandex blog “the PYM itself becomes a Yandex Maps Editor”, and why do users howl? The point is the new data model and global import.

The new data model looks serious. Firstly, there is nothing extra in it: no additional fields (like stars for hotels), a minimum of different types. And the interface does not provide for excesses. The problem of multiple addresses is interestingly solved: now only address points. Secondly, the focus shifted to geometry. It turned out very cool, and in a way that I continuously advise to do for OSM: everything in a relationship. That is, the Yandex with an audience of tens of millions is doing what every one of our editors fears: comfortable editing relationships on every object. All polygons are multi-polygons, and all lines are multi-lines. For example, the streets. Virtual characteristics, like titles, on the relation, pieces with coverings and statuses — on geometry. Pavel Guschin wrote excellently about multi-polygons editing. That is brilliant, and in OSM it was done about a hundred years ago, but we don’t use this, because we are nerds and we are afraid of relationships.

The editor, by the way, is an unbearable pleasure to use. It is fast like no one in the Mapbox dreamed of; all the elements are quite large (except for the POI on the map, but they will be probably repaired), the spots are set and moved as if there is nothing in the DOM. The animated panels drop out, the service buttons (like turning off the extra layers) pretend that they are not there, and all the attention is focused on editing the map. Of course, new data sources, like tracks, did not appear, but everything that was in the old PYM became a thousand times easier and clearer.

The new editor is no longer PYM, this is the Yandex Map editor. Like Like the one that Google has. This is the data that is shown on the main maps. Moderation, of course, has become tougher: no auto-confirmation after three days, admins check every change. As Google does, it is no longer an editor, but an advanced system of reporting inaccuracies — with the difference that Google hired Indians for checking changes, and for five years, Yandex has been accumulated its army of loyal moderators who can understand even complex changes. Service solves a full pool of tasks: route laying (there is an editor of turn restrictions), and even traffic jams and traffic light. That is, the task to which everyone is afraid to approach in the OSM — traffic jams on a daily edited graph, is solved here so that no one even had surprised.

New Yandex maps will make it very difficult to attract new members to edit OpenStreetMap. If it were not for the well-known clause in their agreement, about using data only through the Yandex API, it would be impossible to explain the expediency of participation in our project. And now — well, who does it matter, whose is this data, if everyone uses Yandex, and only three nerd programmers use OSM?

Yandex Maps are separated from global dominance only by the translation of the interface into all languages (and the infrastructure for multilingual names already exists) and the absence of a mobile editor. When it happens — the project will win the Google Maps and become a headache for the entire OSM community, and not only for its Russian-speaking part. With the current OSM management, we can neither improve the data model nor make an exceptional editor. The only thing we are greater at is the community. Yandex fails over and over again with the community, believing that if these users go — others will come. Unfortunately, this approach works. But sometimes I want OpenStreetMap to show its superiority not potentially fifty years later, but right now.