How Foursquare Dropped Google and Joined the OpenStreetMap Movement

Kin Lane, March 1st, 2012

foursquareMapBoxFoursquare 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.

Tags: Mapping
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6 Responses to “How Foursquare Dropped Google and Joined the OpenStreetMap Movement”

March 5th, 2012
at 12:58 pm
Comment by: CityGrid Media Developer Center – CityGrid Local, Mobile, Social Stack: Verizon Mapkit API

[...] platforms and tools that you can use in your local-mobile applications.  With the latest move by Foursquare to join the OpenStreetMaps movement, I’m focused on finding the best mapping tools for the CityGrid Local, Mobile, Social [...]

March 5th, 2012
at 3:51 pm
Comment by: CityGrid Local, Mobile, Social Stack: Verizon Mapkit API « Kin Lane

[...] platforms and tools that you can use in your local-mobile applications. With the latest move by Foursquare to join the OpenStreetMaps moveme nt, I’m focused on finding the best mapping tools for the CityGrid Local, Mobile, [...]

March 16th, 2012
at 12:38 pm
Comment by: 23 Google Maps Alternatives

[...] However, Google Maps pricing did encourage several large sites to make the move to other options, most recently foursquare. If you’re also looking to move from Google, our API directory has several JavaScript-based [...]

June 25th, 2012
at 8:36 pm
Comment by: 3 Ways to Style Maps

[...] last and most involved example of styled maps is the MapBox API. This was the choice when foursquare left Google Maps. It gives you the most options for customization, but it’s also the most involved and will [...]

July 2nd, 2012
at 2:14 pm
Comment by: Today in APIs: Huffington Post, Flickr Maps and 13 New APIs

[...] Flickr has released new map styles using Open Street Map data and the MapBox API. The same technology stack was used when foursquare dropped Google Maps. [...]

July 10th, 2012
at 4:57 pm
Comment by: Today in APIs: Google Fusion Tables, Useful foursquare and 21 New APIs

[...] Making a Better Map — an update to foursquare’s open maps [...]

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