Google is the map provider to beat, and the Linux Foundation wants to attempt just that
Let’s face it: Google Maps is a great mapping service that might be all you’ll ever need depending on where you live or which places you visit. If you’re looking for a similarly full-fledged mapping service on Android, you're basically out of luck, even with an abundance of more specialized services out there. In fact, many third-party developers rely on Google Maps data for their projects. The Linux Foundation and a number of other companies recognize that this Google domination is a problem, and are teaming up to create a collaborative alternative with open source at its core.
The Linux Foundation has announced that the initiative launches as Overture Maps (via TechCrunch). Together with its partners Amazon Web Services (AWS), Meta, Microsoft, and TomTom, the foundation wants to “enable current and next-generation map products by creating reliable, easy-to-use, and interoperable open map data as a shared asset that can strengthen mapping services worldwide.”
The project is targeted at developers and companies that want to create their own mapping systems on top of the data provided by the foundation. In the beginning, the service will offer basic layers only, like buildings and roads. It’s supposed to evolve to provide a better resolution and more accuracy, and the Linux Foundation promises that at some point, it will also provide routing data, 3D buildings, and “places” information.
Overture relies on different existing data sources and is supposed to be used as a complementary addition to OpenStreetMap, the community-created alternative to Google Maps.
Spatial information will also be available at some point, which explains how Facebook parent company Meta fits into this initiative. The company could rely on this data to power some of its VR and AR applications.
Notably missing from the collaboration are Apple and Google, which both offer mapping services of their own.
The approach is drastically different from Google, which is a single entity that holds power over its map product and how third-party developers can use it. It’s possible that the open, collaborative approach will prove more viable in the future as regulators watch gatekeepers and monopolies with increasing scrutiny.
Manuel Vonau joined Android Police as a freelancer in 2019 and has worked his way up to become the publication’s Google Editor. He focuses on Android, Chrome, and other software Google products — the core of Android Police’s coverage. He is based in Berlin, Germany. Before joining Android Police, Manuel studied Media and Culture studies in Düsseldorf, finishing his university “career” with a master’s degree. This background gives him a unique perspective on the ever-evolving world of technology and its implications on society. He isn’t shy to dig into technical backgrounds and the nitty-gritty developer details, either. His first steps into the Android world were plagued by issues. After running into connectivity problems with the HTC One S, he quickly switched to a Nexus 4, which he considers his true first Android phone. Since then, he has mostly been faithful to the Google phone lineup, though these days, he is also carrying an iPhone in addition to his Pixel 6. This helps him gain perspective on the mobile industry at large and gives him multiple points of reference in his coverage. Outside of work, Manuel enjoys a good film or TV show, loves to travel, and you will find him roaming one of Berlin’s many museums, cafés, cinemas, and restaurants occasionally.