Microsoft, Amazon, Meta and TomTom join forces to offer free maps

The Linux Foundation, a non-profit organization that promotes free software and especially GNU/Linux operating systems, welcomes a new initiative with the Overture Maps Foundation. As the name suggests, this new fund focuses on cards that are becoming more and more central. Faced with proprietary solutions on the market, led by Google Maps, this foundation for open maps hopes to create a dataset for the entire world that will be free, interoperable and of the same quality as its private competitors.

assembly MacGenerationillustrations Overture Maps Foundation.

The new foundation is open to anyone who wants to, but it is based on four founding members who each bring their technical expertise. TomTom is the most obvious: this Dutch company is a pioneer in GPS management devices for individuals and one of the few that has its own base maps worldwide. As a reminder, TomTom was Apple’s main supplier for the launch of Maps with its own maps in 2012, and we can imagine that its knowledge will be mobilized in force on this project.

TomTom alone cannot compete with Google Maps, but it also needs strong web players by its side. Therefore, we are not too surprised that the other three founding members are Microsoft, Meta (Facebook) and Amazon through AWS, its hosting offering, which will be used to store and distribute the cards. As for Meta and Microsoft, one can imagine that the two companies will contribute their technical expertise and, above all, eventually use the data provided by the Overture Maps Foundation.

Currently, Bing Maps relies on basemaps from OpenStreetMap… which is perhaps the biggest competitor to this new initiative. Like the new fund, this open and free service offers mapping from around the world. So why create another dataset? Its designers explain that the goal is also to bring together different data sources in a single and coherent service. Emphasis will be placed on the quality of the data, with a systematic validation process which should limit errors, knowing that everyone can also contribute to the project.

The foundation plans to deliver its first data sets during the first half of 2023. Initially, this data will remain simple with road lines, building landforms and administrative information. Subsequently, the Overture Maps Foundation plans to enrich these maps with more precise data and other information, including the 3D shapes of the buildings.

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