Free and Without Limits: MapQuest Navigation Engine Available as API

Adam DuVander, January 25th, 2011

MapQuest Open GuidanceMapQuest is known for driving directions. Now it hopes to bring those to mobile navigation systems everywhere. Today the company has launched the MapQuest Open Guidance API built on top of OpenStreetMap. Developers will now be able to include turn-by-turn directions in mobile apps without any usage limits being imposed by MapQuest.

On the surface, the new offering looks a lot like the company’s two other directions services: MapQuest Directions and MapQuest Open Directions. However, the use case differs for MapQuest Open Guidance. Where the directions APIs are more likely to be used on the web, the new offering is useful for mobile applications, according to MapQuest’s Kumiko Yamazaki. That’s because it provides the raw data necessary to create real-time navigation apps. “I’m calling it the beefier, bulkier brother of the Directions API,” Yamazaki said.

Turn-by-turn directions differ from standard web directions because they provide data necessary to make sense of your current location. The service returns the nodes associated with the directions, rather than simple the path and narrative. For example, you can find out what road is approaching and whether you need to turn there. MapQuest released its own iPhone navigation app in mid-2009, but it has never had the service as an API.

In fact, we aren’t sure anybody has, certainly not for free. MapQuest was the first to offer a standard directions API without charge and now the company appears to be first at a navigation API. The service is incredibly developer-friendly, with no limits or query restrictions. It seems that in the age of Google Maps, MapQuest wants any developers it can get. Previously the company focused on enterprise customers willing to pay for web mapping tools. “The profit is in developer mindshare,” Principal Product Manager Antony Pegg said. “We’ve been learning to listen to developers and provide them what they want rather than what we think they want.”

MapQuest now has an entire suite of tools built on OpenStreetMap, most recently launching an open version of its JavaScript mapping API. Also released today is open aerial imagery, as tiles to be used as a layer in maps. You can see them in action in MapQuest’s tile demo. As with the Guidance API, the tiles are available free and without limits, which means you don’t even have to use them with a MapQuest map. However, expect the tiles to also be integrated as an official layer within the MapQuest Open API soon.

Tags: Mapping
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January 25th, 2011
at 4:35 pm
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Adam DuVander
Executive Editor, ProgrammableWeb. Author, Map Scripting 101. Lover, APIs.