Google Maps Exodus Continues As Wikipedia Mobile Apps Switch To OpenStreetMap

from the location,-location,-location dept

Last year, Google announced that it would begin charging high-volume users for access to its previously free Maps API. It seemed like an odd move. Jacking up the price on something, without actually offering anything new to entice customers to stay, only works if you have a total monopoly—and free competitor OpenStreetMap was already growing rapidly at the time.

Not long after the Google announcement, we reported that property search engine Nestoria was jumping ship to OpenStreetMap. Then, in March, news began to spread that Apple was making a strong push to move away from Google Maps data on the iOS platform. FourSquare also abruptly switched. Now the exodus is continuing, with Wikipedia announcing that the latest versions of its mobile apps for iOS and Android have also ditched Google Maps for OpenStreetMap:

Previous versions of our application used Google Maps for the nearby view. This has now been replaced with OpenStreetMap - an open and free source of Map Data that has been referred to as ‘Wikipedia for Maps.’ This closely aligns with our goal of making knowledge available in a free and open manner to everyone. This also means we no longer have to use proprietary Google APIs in our code, which helps it run on the millions of cheap Android handsets that are purely open source and do not have the proprietary Google applications.

One wonders how Google didn't see this coming—or if they did, what exactly their strategy is here. OpenStreetMap is gaining a lot of momentum, and in some areas even features much better data. The real lesson here is that there's never an incumbent that isn't at risk of being unseated, no matter how widespread the adoption of their product or service—especially if they make an anti-customer decision like Google when it put a price tag on Maps. The situation also points to the long-term strength of open solutions: while a crowdsourced system like OpenStreetMap never could have put together a global mapping product as quickly as Google did, over time it has become a serious competitor in terms of both quality and convenience. Indeed, none of the companies that have switched pointed to the price as their number one reason—potentially superior quality, and the desire to support open data, are generally listed as significant factors. Location-based tools are a rapidly growing field, and by failing to stay ahead of their more open competitors (while becoming less open themselves), Google may have sacrificed their role as a crucial engine driving such services.

Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: crowdsourcing, location, map, mobile, open alternative
Companies: google, openstreetmap, wikipedia


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Apr 2012 @ 6:45pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    I've used Mapquest, for free, considerably before Google maps was around. And Microsoft Maps too, which (at least to the best of my experience at the time, unless someone else knows of another service) was the first to offer high resolution satellite views where you could see the cars on the streets. That was considerably before Google came around and I remember being amazed when Microsoft Maps came around and I could see cars on the streets of various locations including where I lived.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Special Affiliate Offer

Essential Reading
Techdirt Insider Chat
Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.