Can an Upstart Mapmaker Beat Google and Microsoft at Their Own Game?

Glenn Fleishman profiles MapBox, whose 30 employees are taking on the big boys in the development of interactive street and satellite maps. The company is working with Charlie Loyd to develop "the most beautiful, clean map ever made."

Fleishman outlines the company's two-fold approach, which allows the upstart to compete with the major mapmaking players. "For street-level information, the most expensive part of mapping, MapBox relies on data gathered and distributed for free by OpenStreetMap (OSM), a crowdsourced mapping project managed by the not-for-profit OpenStreetMap Foundation, run entirely by volunteers." 

"The only products that MapBox offers exclusively to its paying customers is its composite satellite imagery, on which Mr Loyd is working." Loyd's Cloudless Atlas provides the template for "cloud-free mosaics from open satellite imagery" that "will result in MapBox Satellite being the most beautiful, cloud-free global imagery basemap available."

According to Fleishman, "[MapBox co-founder Eric] Gunderson's bet is that his company's transformation of freely available data and open-source projects allow it to compete with companies hundreds of times its size on price, quality and technical support."

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