The year of OpenStreetMap continues. You have probably heard by now that Apple is now using a mix of TIGER data and OSM tiles in their mapping application. As I said a couple weeks ago, 2012 is the year of OpenStreetMap, and this change for Apple, who had been using Google’s mapping data, is the biggest switch to date.
As I have said before, when large, well established organizations switch to these open data sources it can have a major impact on the open data movement, and Apple is probably as big as it gets. However, Apple could derail the momentum that is the Year of OpenStreetMap!
The rumor on the street (haha, get the pun!) is that Apple is using an older set of tiles and TIGER data (yes, that TIGER). These older datasets aren’t perfect and anyone who has ever taken a GIS course knows that TIGER data should be used for reference purposes only, and not in a global application that will potentially have millions of users. Now, why would Apple be using this older data? Are we seeing a beta product while they get ready to push new tiles out soon? Do they not have any well trained geographers or GIS pros working for them who know about data quality? Are they not taking their mapping applications seriously?
If OpenStreetMap data is to be successfully integrated into an application the users of that application will need to trust the quality of the data. If the most influential tech company in the world messes this up it could impact who joins the OSM movement next, and perhaps set the movement back.
A few motivated indivduals have created some really great mash-ups that display the new Apple tiles. Check them out for yourself to compare what currently exists in OSM and what Apple has published:
- GeoCommons Comparison of OSM and Apple
- Apple’s Tiles in a Google Maps Application
- Transparency Comparison between OSM and Apple’s Tiles
And one last comment. Apple’s map visualization scheme is horrible. Of all the great basemaps out on the web and Apple designs a visualization scheme that just screams 2001. Maybe it’s being optimized for mobile devices, but as a trained cartographer I think it looks bad.
Full disclosure. I am not an Apple person. I have a Dell laptop, a Samsung phone, and an old IPod.