Wikimedia Foundation Drops Google Maps

The Wikimedia Foundation has shifted away from Google Maps to OpenStreetMap in its mobile applications, following a wider trend

The Wikimedia Foundation has dropped the use of Google Maps in its mobile applications in favour of OpenStreetMap (OSM), following the lead of other companies including location-based social network Foursquare.

The foundation announced the move with the release of a new application for Apple’s iOS and an update to its Android software, referring to OSM as “Wikipedia for maps”.

Distance from Google

The shift to OSM aligns with the foundation’s goal of making knowledge available in a free manner, according to Yuvaraj Pandian, mobile software developer for the foundation.

“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,” Pandian said in a statement.

The iOS and Android applications will both use OSM map tiles supplied by MapQuest for the moment, but the organisation plans to switch to its own tile servers in the near future, according to Pandian.

OSM is a collaborative project to create a free, editable map of the world using free material supplied by users, as well as data donated by companies such as Microsoft, which has supported the project financially since 2010. MapQuest also now uses OSM data for its maps.

The project’s application programming interfaces (APIs) are free to use, requiring only a citation, unlike those of Google Maps, for which high-volume users must pay as of the beginning of this year.

New fees

Foursquare cited Google’s new fees as part of the justification for switching to OSM when it announced the move in February. The company now uses maps created by MapBox from OSM data.

Apple last month began using OSM data for the slideshow feature in iPhoto for iOS, although the move wasn’t announced until OSM itself mentioned it in a blog post.

“The new iPhoto for iOS… uses Apple’s own map tiles – made from OpenStreetMap data (outside the US),” stated OSM mapper Jonathan Bennett at the time. “The OSM data that Apple is using is rather old (start of April 2010) so don’t expect to see your latest and greatest updates on there. It’s also missing the necessary credit to OpenStreetMap’s contributors; we look forward to working with Apple to get that on there.”

Apple is also working on its own mapping efforts, last year acquiring mapping organisations C3 Technologies, Placebase and Poly9.

How much do you know about smartphones? Take our quiz.