Mail.Ru Group opens the source code of its MAPS.ME application, the largest free mobile mapping app using OpenStreetMap data, in an announcement at the GMIC conference in San Francisco. The app, which has more than 25 mln installation and is available on and offline, will let other developers embed free maps in their mobile products. Additionally, MAPS.ME will be used by humanitarian groups, activists, and volunteers in rural areas of disasters and political crises. Typically, in these areas there is no sustainable internet, and other mapping services do not provide necessary geographical data.
In coordination with OpenStreeMap (OSM), a project dedicated to provide crowdsourced mapped data of the world, opening MAPS.ME’s source code is an important step in changing the ecosystem of how mapping apps are developed. OpenStreetMap is created and updated by editors like Wikipedia articles; users can edit maps, add towns, roads, locations and points of interest. This database is constantly updated by a global community of enthusiasts that has grown exponentially to 2 mln members. This crowdsourced model combined with the open source MAPS.ME allows for the most detailed and up-to-date maps available.
Fast-updating maps are crucial in areas of humanitarian aid, especially in rural areas and lesser mapped countries. Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) is constantly working to gather people to update OSM in these areas. Efforts like Missing Maps events prepare maps for printing and uploading to GPS devices using volunteers in the field. The open-sourced MAPS.ME application now is included into their toolset, and HOT members can not only install it for doctors and aid workers, reducing the need to teach them how to use it, but provide people with the most updated maps. Open source means they can tailor the app to their needs, for example, adjusting map style, so important elements like fresh water taps and refugee camps, are immediately visible.
“MAPS.ME’s decision means that people around the world will now have access to a professionally developed, cross platform code base to freely work with and can be customized and remixed into tools of all sorts.” said Blake Girardot, Volunteer Mapper and Member of the Board of Directors, HOT. “The ability to customize and tailor an application means that we can make sure we are presenting or collecting our data in the most efficient way possible for the communities we serve. We will benefit directly from MAPS.ME’s decision to open source their applications and have already started planning for how we can provide our humanitarian focused geographic data and maps for use in the MAPS.ME application.”
“We’re happy to share the vision of open and free software available for communities around the globe. The whole team of MAPS.ME highly appreciate the opportunity to contribute in HOT’s humanitarian missions and help to serve in areas of disasters and political crises,” said Yury Melnichek, Head of Maps Business Unit, Mail.Ru Group. “Opening MAPS.ME is an important step not just for us, but for the whole free mapping community, because OSM will become even more accessible for a wider audience, which, I hope, will attract new editors to join this outstanding movement.”