Bye Bye Google – Foursquare Embraces OpenStreetMap

Foursquare, the location ‘check-in’ service, has dropped Google Maps in favor of an OpenStreetMap solution on its desktop service.

According to their own blog post verifying this, OpenStreetMap (used by others like WordPress and MapQuest) was deemed superior because the maps are being constantly updated, and there is more flexibility for Foursquare to change things like colors and fonts.

But they also claim that Google’s decision to start charging for heavy use of Google Maps heavily influenced their thinking. As of January 1st, users are charged $4 for each 1,000 views over the 25,000 base limit.

Quoting their blog, Foursquare said, “When we initially began looking around for other map providers, we found some incredibly strong alternatives.”

“And while the new Google Maps API pricing was the reason we initially started looking into other solutions, we ultimately ended up switching because, after all our research and testing, OpenStreetMap and MapBox was simply the best fit for us.”

For me this seems less motivated by Google’s new pricing model and more a reflection of Google’s recent move to elevate their own check-in services via their Latitude platform.

In addition, when you consider how much of the venue data currently in Foursquare has been compiled and updated by super users working with the previous Google Map data, one can expect this to create major uproar within the community.

Also, the Google map data is far more robust than that available through OpenStreetMap. While the OpenStreetMap data (publicly curated, like Wikipedia) might be fairly good in major urban centers, I have a hard time believing it can compete on the same level of detail as Google in more rural areas.

Bottom line is that Foursquare sees Google as a direct competitor in the location check-in and discovery space. This move is simply about friend versus foe and nothing more.

About the author

Asif Khan

Asif R. Khan is a veteran sales and business-development executive and entrepreneur with an outstanding track record in both the public and private sectors. Asif has recently formed the Location Based Marketing Association a group dedicated to research and education in the space.

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