Despite Google’s huge head start in online mapping, some suggest that Microsoft could quickly come from behind. How? “Microsoft is employing an under-the-radar approach to fighting back, lending big support and big dollars to the open source map project OpenStreetMap,” PCWorld reports. “It looks as if the tactic is starting to pay off.”
OpenStreetMap is run much like Wikipedia, in which volunteers provide mapping information to build a free, open mapping service. People, sites, and companies can then use that mapping information. The services is overseen by the non-profit OpenStreetMap Foundation, which says that a half a million volunteers have already donated data.“Behind the scenes, spurring all this on, is Microsoft,” according to PCWorld. “Microsoft hired OpenStreetMap founder Steve Coast to work for Bing as Principal Architect for Bing Mobile.” Coast works on both Bing and OpenStreetMap.
In a blog post announcing Coast's hiring in late 2010, Microsoft said Coast will "develop better mapping experiences for our customers and partners, and lead efforts to engage with OpenStreetMap and other open source and open data projects." As The New York Times recently reported, Coast is currently working on developing open-source software that will make it simpler for developers to get data from and use OpenStreetMap.