Big Tech Companies Join Linux in Effort to Kill Google Maps

The companies include Meta, Microsoft, Amazon Web Services, and TomTom, which together could facilitate a new wave of geolocation apps.

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A VR representation of a city showing a navigation screen in a 3d representation of a city.
Companies like TomTom have struggled for years to beat Google Map’s might in the world of navigation and geolocation, but a partnership facilitated by the Linux Foundation might offer them and the likes of Meta and Microsoft a new means of one-upping the current king.
Image: TomTom

Some of Google’s biggest rivals are coming together in a kind of rogues gallery with the hopes of creating new open source services to knock Google Maps from its mapping throne.

On Thursday, the nonprofit Linux Foundation announced its own open project that’s meant to collate new map projects through available datasets. And several other major companies have come out of the woodwork to support it in what seems like a bid to finally end Google’s domineering geolocation reign. Those companies include Meta, Microsoft, Amazon Web Services, and none other than Dutch geolocation company TomTom.

This Overture Maps Foundation is essentially an open source program for curating and collating map data across the globe from multiple different data sources. So in essence, the project promises it will use the massive amount of global data housed by these various companies and from outside to build up-to-date maps that developers can then use. Linux also promised this new project will essentially level the playing field for anybody looking to develop up-to-date geolocation services or maps without breaking the bank on expensive commercial data that may not even be accurate.

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In the release, Linux Foundation’s Executive Director Jim Zemlin 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.”

Of course, all the companies involved could have a major stake in such open services. AWS’ general manager Michael Kopenec said in the release that map data is “cost prohibitive and complex,” though it’s unclear if Amazon wants to break into the world of geolocation as well. Overture could also be a boon to its flagging “metaverse” ambitions, with applications in both VR and AR. The company has its own street view company called Mapillary, and it’s already worked alongside Microsoft on street mapping data.

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While Google and its parent company Alphabet were combining its Maps and Waze teams, its street view and AR capabilities keep getting more sophisticated, leaving its potential competitors in the dust, even after it was cited for selling users’ location data. That domination is so great that Google Maps has mapped more than 220 countries and territories, according to the company. Maps is the most-downloaded GPS app by far, and it’s not even close.

Though TomTom’s market share has seriously depleted since highs in 2008, the company has survived against Google Maps with deals in countries where the top performing app wasn’t available. Last month, the company announced a new maps platform. TomTom’s Chief Technology Officer Eric Bowman said in an internal Q&A “The world of maps today is pretty siloed. Everyone who is making a commercial map—whether they admit it or not—is starting to see that there are limits to what any one company can do, no matter how big or powerful or well funded they are.”

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TomTom’s CEO Harold Goddijn, said in a release “Overture’s standardization and interoperable base map is fundamental to bringing geospatial information from the world together.”