Mapping learns an open source lesson

One application type which it seems plain needs a community behind it, and thus open source, is mapping.

Yahoo Development NetworkSome applications need open source more than others, because some require the support of a community more than others.

One application type which it seems plain needs a community behind it, and thus open source, is mapping.

There are many applications for mapping in the real world. I can think of some. You can think of others. The more people we have thinking about this, with the power to do something about it, the more applications we will have.

So is it any surprise that mapping, of all the major applications, has moved most decisively toward open source in 2005?

It started with Google Maps, and its open source API. This was followed by Yahoo opening its API. This was followed by an incredible outburst of creativity, and huge market share gains against Mapquest, which remains closed-source.

In a recent story I wrote about on another blog, Mapquest bragged about its mobile applications. And this makes sense, given that cellular companies are walled gardens (insofar as the Internet is concerned). It also makes sense because, on the Web, this AOL-Time Warner subsidiary continues to lose ground daily to Google and Yahoo.

Want more proof? Autodesk is going to offer its own MapServer program under an open source license. Codenamed Tux, the new program will be under the Lesser GPL. The full code is due for release early next year, through the MapServer Foundation. Folks who work in spatial mapping (as opposed to the GIS mapping used by Yahoo and Google) are thrilled.

The point is that the open source business process works. Want more proof? Do I have to draw you a map?

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