Mapillary Team Joins Facebook to Aid Its Open Mapping Efforts

It taps user-submitted images to build a global street-level imagery platform

The Mapillary platform will continue to operate Mapillary

The team at Mapillary, which taps user-generated content to build a global street-level imagery platform, similar in concept to efforts by Google Maps, revealed last week that it joined Facebook to work on the social network’s open mapping efforts.

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

A Facebook spokesperson said, “We’re excited for the Mapillary team to join Facebook and help us bring the world closer together through better maps.”

Mapillary co-founder and CEO Jan Erik Solem said in a blog post that the plan is for its platform to continue operating, with users still being able to upload images and use map data from images that have already been uploaded.

Solem said the rights given to editors on its OpenStreetMap platform will not change, and its work with communities and partners will continue.

One change that went into effect, according to Solem: All of the imagery on the Mapillary platform had been and will continue to be open and free for non-commercial purposes, and it is now free for use by commercial entities, as well.

Solem said that while Mapillary originally needed to focus on commercialization in order to build and run its platform, joining Facebook moves it closer to its goal of providing its service free-of-charge to everyone.

He wrote, “As some of you know, Facebook is building tools and technology to improve maps through a combination of machine learning, satellite imagery and partnerships with mapping communities as part of its mission to bring the world closer together. These maps power products like Facebook Marketplace that drive transactions for millions of small businesses, and supply vital data to humanitarian organizations around the world.”

Facebook uses map data for products across its family of applications, operating a global-scale platform of map datasets, processing pipelines, service layers and tools.

The social network combines machine learning and satellite imagery to back products such as Marketplace and Messenger From Facebook, helping to drive transactions for small businesses, and to enable programs such as its Data for Good initiative to supply data to humanitarian organizations worldwide.

Facebook is in the early stages of building spatial information services that will drive its next generation of products, including augmented reality glasses and next-generation virtual reality headsets, and the company said its acquisition of Mapillary will accelerate its current and future maps infrastructure.

Solem added, “Although much has happened since we first launched Mapillary, we’re still just at the beginning. So much of the world still needs to be mapped, and so many of the world’s maps still require updates. As the world changes, our maps need to change with it. Together with Facebook, we’ll be able to build the tools that will keep our maps detailed, accurate, and up to date—for everyone, everywhere.”

Mapillary's coverage as of June 2020
Mapillary David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.