Mappers and humanitarian activists will use MAPS.ME’s open sourcing to improve OpenStreetMap and to facilitate relief efforts.
Mail.Ru Group will open the source code of its MAPS.ME application, the largest free mobile mapping app using OpenStreetMap (OSM) data, in an announcement made at the Global Mobile Internet Conference (GMIC) conference in San Francisco. The app, which has more than 25 million downloads worldwide and allows maps to be downloaded so they are accessible both on and offline, will now allow other developers to embed free maps into their mobile products. MAPS.ME’s code will also be available under the Apache 2.0 license, which means free usage for users, even when being used for commercial purposes. Additionally, MAPS.ME will be used by humanitarian groups, activists and volunteers in rural areas of disaster zones 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 OSM, a project dedicated to providing crowdsourced mapped data of the world, opening MAPS.ME’s source code is an important step in changing the ecosystem of the development of mapping apps. OSM was created to be 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 million members. This crowdsourced model combined with the open sourced MAPS.ME app 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. The Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) is constantly working to encourage people to update OSM in these areas. Efforts like Missing Maps’ events prepare maps for printing and uploading to GPS devices by using volunteers in the field. The open-sourced MAPS.ME application now is included into these volunteer’s toolset, and HOT members can not only install the app for doctors and aid workers, reducing the need to teach them how to use it, but also provide people with the most updated maps. Open source means users can tailor the app to their needs, for example, adjusting the 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 that they can freely work with, and that 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 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 are happy to share our vision of open and free software available for communities around the globe. The whole team at MAPS.ME appreciates 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, as OSM will become even more accessible for a wider audience, which, I hope, will attract new editors to join this outstanding movement.”