Is it still possible to compete with Google Maps in the critical mapping industry? At least that is the ambition of the Overture Maps project, which has just been launched by a large coalition of web companies.
Open and free cartographic data
Foundation members of the project include Amazon, Microsoft, Meta, Tomtom and the Linux Foundation. Moreover, it is the latter that is the origin of the project that aims to generate “open and reliable map data that is easy to use and interoperable.“Although Google is never mentioned in the various press releases from each company, the Internet giant and its Google Maps service are obviously in the crosshairs.
Specifically, Overture Maps’ mission is not to create a turnkey website detailing how to get from point A to point B, but rather to generate a large map database that can be freely used by anyone. The idea is similar to what OpenStreetMap offers, but without the dedicated navigation tool. To put it more simply, Overture Maps could provide some of the data from the OpenStreetMap application and website, but also feedmapping services developed by other websites.
“Maintaining accurate and comprehensive map data is expensive and complex, which can put it out of reach for many departments and stifle innovation“, explains Michael Kopenec, one of Amazon’s executives, who is promoting the project.This will allow everyone to leverage the same underlying data to power a wide range of applications.“, the manager continues. This initiative is of course not just the disinterested fruit of the love that big companies have for data and free software: economic considerations come into play.
Google Maps is expensive
Google Maps, now widely used in a wide variety of applications and on a large number of websites, can cost companies that generate a large number of requests. Google’s map service is ultimately, which has almost become the default tool for anyone seeking guidance, many companies have no choice but to use it. It is this dominance that the Linux Foundation seeks to shake up with the help of the other giants of the web.
The first data packages made available by Overture Maps are expected to be available in mid-2023. They will merge OpenStreetMap data as well as other data provided by municipalities to allow them to slowly free themselves from the Google Maps troll.