I have read some discussion about the relative benefits of using Wikimapia compared to Google Earth. My first thoughts on the subject: this is comparing apples to oranges. UPDATE! Check out my post: Wikimapia Invades Google Earth! Wikimapia just released a new Google Earth layer that will allow you to use all the cool features of Google Earth right along side the awesomeness of Wikimapia!
First let me go over the similarities. Both applications use the same imagery. Google Earth, Google Maps, and Wikimapia all use the same satellite / arial photography so the resolutions (amount of detail) will always be the same (there has been some indication that sometimes Google Maps will get the imagery sooner than Google Earth, but by and large, it is the same). Both applications have the ability to allow users to add information about various locations (but the do this very differently).
Now let me discuss the differences (some of these will be shown more explicitly in the photograph section further down the post).
Wikimapia is web based, Google Earth is program based. All of Wikimapia’s features are accessed directly through your web browser. Google Earth must be downloaded and run from your computer (and so will genearlly be more taxing on your system). Advantage: Personal Preference.
Differences in navigation: Wikimapia (as well as Google Maps) moves North and South, East and West and to zoom in and out, the appropriate level is choose from the navigation panel on the left side of the screen. Google Earth has the ability to move in any direction, can zoom in and out using the mouse scroller, and can change the angle at which you are viewing the imagery. Advantage: Google Earth.
Dimensionality: Wikimapia views the flat 2-dimensional map, Google Earth projects elevations so there is a more 3-dimensional feel. Advantage: Google Earth.
User additions: There is where Wikimapia shines (as it is a Wiki). Wikimapia allows all users to add and edit place locations by “Adding a New Place” which is then reviewed by other users. This is the backbone of “Describing the Entire World.” Google Earth also has a very large user base that can add place marker and descriptors. The disadvantage to Google Earth is that because it is computer based, it must open up a web browser that will then allow the user to put in information (the advantage that Google Earth has here is that the infmoration web page allows for a forum type atmosphere [that Wikimapia is also touching upon with the addition of “commenting”]). The way Google Earth displays the added information can also end up looking very cluttered (images below give good example of this). Advantage: Wikimapia.
Peer review: Wikimapia allows users to review “Upcoming Places” which helps reduce the amount of “graffiti” that shows up on the maps. Google Earth does not seem to have this ability. People can discuss the merits of the place marker in that marker’s web page, but regardless of the quality, it will still show up in Google Earth. Advantage: Wikimapia.
I am sure there are other similarities and differences, but those are what I came up with off the top of my head. And really, I shouldn’t be saying one has the advantage over the other, both work very well but, depending on what you want to do, each will work better in different situations. Let me know if you need me to clear any of this up.
Here are some screen captures that help show the differences (images are clickable for larger versions).
To make the differences very apparent, I am going to look at a very busy area (Washington, DC). Most places will not be quite like this, but I thought I would show an extreme example. Being able to cleanly show many places is important and Wikimapia seems to do this much better than Google Earth (at least in busy places):
This is the Washington DC area with “Google Earth Community” turned on in Google Earth.
This is approximately the same area of Washington DC in Wikimapia with “show places” turned on. While Wikimapia can look somewhat cluttered on first glance, compared to Google Earth, it is nice and clean.
Here we are zoomed in a bit more in Google Earth. Part of the reason it seems more cluttered is the way the display the place but also because they allow any place marker to be made.
Again, about the same vantage point in Wikimapia. (To defend Google Earth somewhat) One of th reasons Wikimapia appears much less cluttered is that it is much newer than Google Earth and has not had nearly as many submissions. On the other hand, it will also be cleaner because of peer reviews.
Even at this close zoom, Google Earth (for good and bad) still has a number of places marked.
Nice: neat and tidy.
Here is one of the cool advantages of Google Earth: you can rotate and view at different angles, something that (at this point) Wikimapia cannot do.
As just shown, Google Earth can change orientation and viewing angle which makes for some nice vantages. In a previous post I looked at the area just south of Mount St. Helens, specifically Swift Reservoir and the Ape Cave. In Wikimapia, it looks like this:
In Google Earth we can see an interesting view (and note that the Ape Cave is also marked):
You can visit this location in Wikimapia or see the Google Earth Community page.
Wikimapia or Google Earth? Take your pick or enjoy both! Let me know if you have any questions or would like to add anything to this discussion.