How Foursquare Dropped Google and Joined the OpenStreetMap Movement

Kin Lane
Mar. 01 2012, 09:15AM EST

MapBoxFoursquare just made the switch from using the Google Maps API, to joining the crowd-sourced, global OpenStreetMap movement. To do most of the heavy lifting, foursquare relied upon the still fairly new MapBox API.

In January, during a Foursquare hackathon, an adventurous Foursquare engineer wondered what the world would look like if Foursquare made their own maps, and began playing with OpenStreetMaps. Foursquare quickly realized that taking OpenStreetMap data and turning it into maps was not as easy as they first thought. Even though OpenStreetMap comes with a default set of map tiles, but they just weren’t attractive enough for the Foursquare team.

After researching further, Foursquare came across MapBox, which was already making gorgeous maps using the OpenStreetMap data. It just made sense to partner with MapBox, rather than reinventing the wheel, and a month later, MapBox now drives all of Foursquare.com’s maps.

Foursquare made the decision to go with OpenStreetMaps because its an evolving community and it opens up whole new realms of flexibility allowing Foursquare to alter things like fonts, colors, tweaking the maps to make them better match the Foursquare look and feel, while also contributing back to the open and vibrant OpenStreetMap community.

While OpenStreetMap isn’t perfect, and there is still a lot of work to be done, it has come a long way toward creating an atlas of the entire world. Foursquare acknowledged that one of the reasons they chose to join the OpenStreetMap community is they’ve seen an increasing number of companies migrating from Google Maps.

Web geography pioneer MapQuest has been releasing tools based on OpenStreetMap for over a year. There's a no limits mapping version of its JavaScript API, the MapQuest Open API, based on OpenStreetMap data. That is one of 11 OpenStreetMap-based APIs in our directory.

Kin Lane I am a programmer and entrepreneur, with a focus on the business of APIs. I study how APIs are changing the business landscape, and the rise of API driven developer ecosystems. I share my insights by blogging on API Evangelist and ProgrammableWeb, and put into action as API evangelist for CityGrid.

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