Wikipedia dumps Google Maps for OpenStreetMap, marks industry trend toward alternative service

OpenStreetMap on “Wikipedia for Android” app

Wikipedia updated its Android and iOS apps today, but the noteworthy feature is that the online encyclopedia-like website dumped Google Maps for OpenStreetMap, which marks a growing trend for technology firms preferring an alternative mapping solution.

The company just announced its Android counterpart witnessed 2.25 million installs in less than two months since its birth, while netting over 23 million Wikipedia page views per month. Despite the success with Google’s mobile OS, Wikipedia updated its apps with Open StreetMap data in favor of the service’s “nearby view” feature.

Wikipedia further explained the reasoning behind the switch:

Previous versions of our application used Google Maps for the nearby view. This has now been replaced with OpenStreetMaps – an open and free source of Map Data that has been referred to as ‘Wikipedia for Maps.’ This closely aligns with our goal of making knowledge available in a free and open manner to everyone. This also means we no longer have to use proprietary Google APIs in our code, which helps it run on the millions of cheap Android handsets that are purely open source and do not have the proprietary Google applications. OpenStreetMaps is used in both iOS and Android, thanks to the amazing Leaflet.js library. We are currently using Mapquest’s map tiles for our application, but plan on switching to our own tile servers in the near future.

In the last couple of months alone, both Apple and Foursquare also shifted to OpenStreetMap. It is worth mentioning that Yahoo implemented OpenStreetMap data within Flickr in 2009 for a plethora of worldwide cities, such as Baghdad, Beijing, Kabul, Santiago, Sydney, and Tokyo.

One might think these migrations have Google trembling in its boots, but that is not quite the case. According to web statistics firm BuiltWith, Google Maps data exists on approximately 792,238 websites —within the top million websites— as of March 31.

The chart below represents Google Maps web usage trends over a time period based on a large selection of homepages queried by BuiltWith. The firm also provided a downloadable list of the websites.

OpenStreetMap still has a long way to go before bumping Google from the No. 1 mapping solution spot, because the Mountain View, Calif.-based Internet giant consistently provides its mammoth audience with a variety of updates and advantages.

Google, for example, ritually upgrades Google Maps with attractive, immersive features like Street View. Google Street View is a service highlighted in Google Maps and Google Earth that offers panoramic views of streets. It launched in 2007 in the United States and has expanded to many cities and rural areas around the globe.

Anyway, about those app updates…
Aside from the addition of OpenStreetMap data, the “Wikipedia for Android” app now showcases quick search bar integration, the ability to open Wikipedia URLs from any application with the Wikipedia app, full-text search, “Did you Mean?” correction support, improved tablet interface, and an option to move the app to a SD Card. It also corrected various bugs.

The “Wikipedia for iOS” app update highlighted OpenStreetMap data, search suggestions, full-text search, “Did you mean?” results, the ability to save pages for offline viewing, share options via Twitter and Facebook, and users can save pages to “Read It Later.” They can also now read in other languages, access a new map integration feature for viewing nearby articles, and operate a new navigation history feature.

The “Wikipedia for Android” app is free and available at Google Play. The “Wikipedia for iOS” app is free and available at the App Store.

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