Major tech companies join hands to kill Google's dominance in maps

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Ameya Paleja
Google Maps application
Google Maps application

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Major names in the technology world, such as Meta, Microsoft, and Amazon Web Services, have decided to join hands to bring an end to Google's dominance in maps, Gizmodo reported. The effort will also see a revival of the Dutch geolocation company, TomTom, which disappeared into oblivion with the surge in usage of Google Maps.

Launched in 2005, Google Maps is the top choice for web mapping and route planning across the globe. The service offers a wide range of services ranging from satellite imagery to aerial photography, street views, and 360-degree interactive views of popular destinations.

Other tech companies, such as Microsoft as well as Apple, have attempted to break this dominance but have fallen exceedingly short of user expectations. Even though Google Maps are not 100 percent accurate, it is the best available product out there, and now major technology companies want to take on the beast together.

The Linux connection

The credit for bringing these companies goes to the Linux Foundation, the non-profit organization working tirelessly to advance Linux and keep it free. In a press release, Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Foundation, said, "Mapping the physical environment and every community in the world, even as they grow and change, is a massively complex challenge that no one organization can manage."

The Foundation's next project is called Overture Maps and aims to collate and curate maps using different data sources from around the globe. The collaborative effort of these major companies means that they will open up their map data and combine it with data from around the world to build the most detailed and up-to-date maps.

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When ready for use, the project will allow anybody looking to use geolocation services or maps to tap into this resource without using expensive commercial services.

What it means for the companies involved

Such is Google's dominance in the maps app market that the companies collaborating in this program do not even feature in the top 10 maps apps downloaded by users in the U.S. The number two on the list, Waze apps, is also a wholly-owned Google subsidiary, and the parent company, Alphabet, recently announced that it was merging the two divisions working on maps.

From now on, Google is expected to add augmented reality features to its maps, a part of the metaverse holy grail that the tech companies are looking to tap into next. As Gizmodo mentioned in its report, the Overture Maps program is unlikely to be limited to 2D world mapping. It could give companies like Microsoft and Meta another shot at the maps market.

While Microsoft's Bing maps are at least known if not used, Meta has a street view company called Mapillary that uses user-contributed images for its maps. It is unclear whether Amazon is also looking to break into this segment or would like to use the services for its operations.

Dutch company TomTom which saw a severe dip in users after Google Maps surged, has been surviving by offering services in areas where Google's services are banned. Now the company wants to hit back and has launched a new maps platform, which it claims is a unique ecosystem and offers users more value.

As the world prepares to enter a new era of the internet, how we deal with maps might change too, and Overture wants its maps to be the ones who lead the way for users.