On Wednesday February 29th, the bissextile day of 2012, Foursquare announced on his blog the switch from Google Maps to OpenStreetMaps.
I hope that this transition will help the open source/data world like never before. This is the first time that an Open Source project can be improved simply using an easy, known and fun application like Foursquare.
The first change reason they considered for is the economic one. Last October Google announced that more than 25,000 map loads per day had to be paid with the Google Premier API.
Thor Mitchell wrote that this change affected just 0.35% of world’s websites, but for that small amount of people the prices plans were really high.
Ed Freyfogle of Nestoria had the same 4SQ experience and solved the problem in the same “open way”. In his post he wrote strong words about the commercial attitude of the Google’s employee that represent the real value of the map services for web and mobile.
Unfortunately Google’s sales process was not good. Having agreed to a time for a call, the sales rep missed the appointment with no warning, instead calling me 45 minutes late. It was quickly obvious he had done no research whatsoever about our service, what we do, or even where (in which countries) we do it. He was unable to explain the basics of the new charging regime – for example, what exactly is a “map-view”, telling me instead to “ask your developers”. Finally he quoted a price to continue using Google Maps (just on nestoria.co.uk, one of eight countries we operate in) that would have bankrupted our company.
On the Foursquare post comments are focused on the bad OSM mapping information of cities like New Mexico and Sao Paulo, while some Russian countries are mapped better than Google Map. What does it mean?
Civil earth mapping is still generally incomplete according to the entity that promote it. Google Map is focused on commercial scope because it works on advertising and business applications. OpenStreetMap is focused on the openness of its platform, but depends totally from the users. The advanced digital users like the russians
Unfortunately the paradox is that the Google Map success is due to his easy personalization and integration on the web. Everyone can build a little map or can add his company on it. Using Google Map gives the sense of openness that is not real!
When users put datas on Google Map give their information to BigG that first tracks our profiles, and then filsl its local databases. Ok, it gives us a a great map service, but this is not open, its a business product that users are building with their datas and a strong usage.
If I were in OpenStreetMap I focus on little instruments to facilitate access to the map instruments. For example the maps for personal web sites, small applications for mobile and so on. Untill companies will be forced to consider OMS as a Google Map alternative just for economic reasons, the OMS project probably will not fill the mapping holes of his atlas.
Open Source and Open Data should be easy end fun.
Foursquare has the unique occasion to spread an open source project that need to be filled with users, gamification, badges, specials and so on. Foursquare could even innovate his system developing a personal reality mapping function that goes beyond the simple check-in system. Users could build their onf maps using the 4SQ mobile technology mixed to the OSM map framework, and then they could open ecommerce corners or sell local adv.
I’ll follow them, even if for me Foursquare is still an Antisocial Network 😉