Big Tech Allies Map Out a Challenge to Google and Apple

(Photo by Mika Baumeister via Unsplash)

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An organization founded by Meta, Microsoft, Amazon, and TomTom has launched its first open-source location dataset, giving developers who want to integrate maps into their platforms a potential alternative to forking over their hard-earned cash to integrate maps made by Google and Apple. So what’s in it for the dream team?

Here Be APIs

For the past decade or so, if you were developing an app that uses a map somewhere in your interface, you probably used either Google or Apple Maps. Both require third-party developers to pay for the privilege via an application programming interface (API), although apps developed natively for Apple get off the hook.

Last year, Meta, Microsoft, Amazon, and TomTom banded together to form the Overture Maps Foundation (OMF), to which they all chipped in location data, to build an open-source, free-to-use map. On Wednesday, it launched its first dataset:

  • The OMF said it had incorporated data “on over 59 million places worldwide” to aid mapmakers.
  • “Anyone who works in mapping knows that the initial data is just the beginning,” OMF executive director Marc Prioleau said in a statement. “The ongoing challenge lies in maintaining the data amidst constant changes to meet user expectations,” he added. If you’ve ever driven the wrong way down a newly one-way street at Google Maps’ directions, you know what he means.

In the Crease: Exactly what commercial benefit OMF’s founding members glean from the alliance, other than just ticking off Google and Apple, isn’t entirely clear — unless they’re just sick of paying Google and Apple for holding the map.