Google has updated its Local Guides program for Google Maps, rewarding people who regularly leave reviews, upload photos, or add information for restaurants, tourist spots, and other locations with increased Google Drive storage and early access to new products.
Guides who reach level two will get early access to new Google products and features, while level three participants will get a badge next to their name, indicating when a review or piece of information has been contributed by a trusted guide. But it’s level four that offers the most appealing prize, gifting Local Guides who reach that rank with 1 TB of Drive storage for free, an amount that’s worth $9.99 a month. In the wake of Microsoft’s recent rollbacks on OneDrive storage, this is one of the few ways to get a terabyte of cloud space for free. Those who ascend all the way to level five, after accumulating 500 points in the program, will be able to apply to attend the first Local Guides summit in 2016. Google hasn’t provided concrete details about the summit yet, but it says that those chosen as attendees will be able to “meet other top Guides from around the world, explore the Google campus, and get the latest info about Google Maps.”
The company has been slowly expanding its Local Guides program over the past year to fill Google Maps with more relevant information. In August, it tested a new feature that detected when food photos were taken at restaurants and automatically uploaded them, attaching them to the location so other users could see what they could be eating.
While Google Maps has traditionally been seen as the the mapping market leader after Apple Maps’ shaky launch, Apple has stepped up development on its product, adding public transport directions and apparently gearing up to introduce its own take on Google’s street view. But by adding real-world rewards for Local Guides, Google has made buying in to its program — and by extension Google Maps — a much more appealing concept.