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Google Open Source Wikipedia Technology

Wikipedia Mobile Apps Switch To OpenStreetMap 166

Techdirt reports that the latest versions of Wikipedia's mobile apps have switched to OpenStreetMap from Google Maps. Says Techdirt's commentary: "One wonders how Google didn't see this coming — or if they did, what exactly their strategy is here. OpenStreetMap is gaining a lot of momentum, and in some areas even features much better data. The real lesson here is that there's never an incumbent that isn't at risk of being unseated, no matter how widespread the adoption of their product or service—especially if they make an anti-customer decision like Google when it put a price tag on Maps. The situation also points to the long-term strength of open solutions: while a crowdsourced system like OpenStreetMap never could have put together a global mapping product as quickly as Google did, over time it has become a serious competitor in terms of both quality and convenience."
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Wikipedia Mobile Apps Switch To OpenStreetMap

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  • Danger Google (Score:5, Interesting)

    by GeneralTurgidson ( 2464452 ) on Sunday April 08, 2012 @10:37AM (#39612279)
    If this and DuckDuckGo start gaining momentum google may find itself in Altavista's shoes.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 08, 2012 @10:38AM (#39612289)

    Acquiring the data isn't the only cost. Serving tiles to millions of clients each day can't be cheap. Who pays for that, if there aren't any ads and the service is free to use?

  • Superior for trails (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dargaud ( 518470 ) <> on Sunday April 08, 2012 @10:47AM (#39612329) Homepage
    In my country there are very good 1:25000 maps, but the trails in the wooded areas can be off by hundreds of meters because they we mapped before the time of the GPSs and there's no way to use a theodolite acurately on a forest trail. Come the GPS: I take a track, clean it up a bit, upload it to OSM and the trail is now a lot more accurate than the best maps available...
  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Sunday April 08, 2012 @11:08AM (#39612449) Journal

    Superior for a lot of things. I'm moving to Cambridge soon, and the university accommodation office uses both Bing and Google maps for their web site (no idea why - it seems quite random which one you get). Neither of them even labels all of the colleges, let along the university buildings. In contrast, OSM labels all of the colleges, most of the university buildings, and even a lot of shops, pubs, and restaurants are there by name.

    When I visited a friend in Paris, Google Maps had the street he lived on labelled, but OSM had the building numbers marked as well.

    That said, there are a few places where it is less good. For example, it doesn't have integrated route finding, but there are third-party route finders using the same data. If you want to create a map with one marker on it and send it as a link to someone, you can do it via the OSM web interface, but the UI is pretty horrible. If you want multiple tags, then you need to host your own OpenLayers thing and write some JavaScript. The search feature in OSM is pretty poor as well. It doesn't factor distance into account (although the one on the OSM client on my phone does), so if I search for a street name while looking at a city in the UK, I often have to scroll past a dozen streets in random US cities with the same name before I find the right one.

  • Project Glass (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MLCT ( 1148749 ) on Sunday April 08, 2012 @11:26AM (#39612525)
    This might be a little "tinfoil hat", and I doubt very much if it is the main reason why google started charging - but I just wonder if longer term thoughts like project glass might factor into their decision.

    Products like Glass are basically just one big world of maps - mapping, satellite, traffic, public transport. Giving that away completely free no-strings-attached forever would just allow others to make products without the overhead that google have to shoulder alone. Something like glass is a long way off, but perhaps there may be a small degree of laying down the norms early on.

    For basic mapping openstreetmap is completely fine, but if all of the finer granularity (streetview, satellite, traffic data) is required then that costs a lot of money to acquire/maintain - and fair enough if google want to start asking those that use it to contribute.
  • by gQuigs ( 913879 ) on Sunday April 08, 2012 @11:27AM (#39612537) Homepage

    Give [] a try. It uses OpenStreetMap data while including many mapquest features, including satellite imagery.

  • by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Sunday April 08, 2012 @11:39AM (#39612599)

    What app do you use and what is your work flow? It's been about a year since I've looked into it but it just wasn't a simple. "Do This This and This". I'm going to be traveling to Germany in a few weeks and although my droid will be a useless phone (CDMA) I'd love to take it as a GPS/portable computing device.


  • Re:Danger Google (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Maury Markowitz ( 452832 ) on Sunday April 08, 2012 @01:41PM (#39613209) Homepage

    I'm not so sure its even great at that.

    For instance, when I open the map to my local region near Toronto, Toronto does not appear. Vaughan and Brampton, suburbs, do. Now admittedly, there are many "cities" in the area of Toronto, so one might suspect this has something to do with Z-layering or such.

    But, no, that does not appear to be a problem.

    At the same zoom level, far away in northern Ontario, Haileybury appears. This is a town of a few thousand people. The cites of Sudbury, about 100,000, and North Bay, about 50,000, do not appear at all. Even stranger, when one zooms in on Sudbury (you can see the nest of roads around it on the map), it *never* appears.

    If one searches for the city, the hits are places in the UK and USA. If one adds "canada" to the search terms, you get lots of streets and such.

    One will not find the city until you select *Greater Sudbury*, the official legal name of the area. Clicking this scrolls to the middle of the town and places an arrow.

    This really isn't useful.

Exceptions prove the rule, and wreck the budget. -- Miller