foursquare Upgrades Maps With MapBox, Dumps Google Maps API


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Since everybody's getting prettier maps these days, foursquare didn't want to be left out of the fun so they announced today that they're upgrading the quality of their maps with the help of a new mapping startup, MapBox. All of the same foursquare functions will work as they ever did - it's just going to look a lot sharper the next time you check in to your favorite watering hole.

A post to foursquare's official blog explains why they dumped Google Maps API (which they'd been using prior to the update), passed on using MapQuest, and instead hitched up with the nascent MapBox:

We’ve been using the Google Maps API since the early days of foursquare. In the last six months, though, we’ve seen an increasing number of companies migrating to other options. So, during our January hackathon, one of our intrepid engineers wondered what the world would look like if we made our own maps. To do that, he used data from OpenStreetMap. (It’s a crowd-sourced global atlas, and it’s kind of amazing! It’s like Wikipedia for geography.) We love the idea of open data, and were happy to try it out.

Around this time, we reached out to the wonderful team at MapBox (hot new startup alert!) to see if they had any ideas. They were making gorgeous maps with the OpenStreetMap data. And, like all great love stories, the timing here was perfect. Earlier this week, they launched MapBox Streets, which now powers all of’s maps.

For those new to OpenStreetMap, it's a wiki-style open-source mapping service, which was one of the major selling points that drove foursquare's decision. Additionally, foursquare cites the higher cost of using Google Maps API. Additionally, any open source platform always has the potential to lure in more developers, which can then boost the performance and quality of the service.

The maps created by MapBox are nothing short of aesthetically pleasing:

And when compared to the Google Maps design, MapBox appears to be a lot more info-rich, spatially speaking. For one, MapBox actually provides you with an outline of what the buildings within the city blocks which provide great reference points for navigators. Plus, Mapbox is simply sleeker.

View Larger Map

Maybe it's apropos of nothing, but the timing of foursquare's announcement that they're no longer going to be using Google as a partner with their platform coming on the eve of Google's new privacy policy going into effect is... well, it's just peculiar. That's all.