Google Maps may be the dominant player in the mapping business still, but there’s a rising star in an open-source competitor called OpenStreetMap that’s been heavily backed by Microsoft. Due to the high fees of using Google Maps, some major services, including FourSquare and Apple’s iPhoto app, have already defected to using OpenStreetMap instead.
OpenStreetMap is run by the non-profit OpenStreetMap Foundation and works like Wikipedia with all the mapping data provided by volunteers. There have already been half a million volunteers providing mapping data to the service, which can be used by both consumers and businesses for free.
But what really helped spur the growth of OpenStreetMap is Microsoft. The software giant has reportedly donated valuable map data along with big dollars to the non-profit. It also uses OpenStreetMap data for its own Bing Maps service.
Back in November 2010, Microsoft even hired back OpenStreetMap founder Steve Coast to work as Principal Architect for Bing Mobile, allowing him to work on both Bing and OpenStreetMap. Coast is now working on developing open-source software that will make it easier for developers to get data from OpenStreetMap.