In a predictable move, Groundspeak have announced that they've dumped Google Maps as their mapping engine of choice on the geocaching.com website. Google's recent announcement on changes to the cost structure for the mapping API* has forced Groundspeak to find an alternative. As Groundspeak explain on their Latitude 47 blog, Google announced that they were going to start charging API customers who made more than 25,000 mapping requests a day. Groundspeak falls firmly within that category (with over 2million map loads a day), and faced significant charges (up to $20,000 per day). As a result, they've updated the website and are now using the OpenStreetMap system instead. For those who aren't already aware of it, OpenStreetMap is an open source, collaborative mapping system, where the data is 'crowd sourced' After a slow start, it has really taken off, although the data doesn't seem to be so extensive in Australia, as it is in other parts of the world, especially in our regional areas. Since OSM is only street based mapping, it also means we've lost the option of the Google Maps satellite imagery. The geocaching.com site offers several map options, including MapQuest Aerial, but when I checked my local area, there were only very large scale images available. Since OSM is crowd sourced, we might find that forcing geocachers to use it, might increase the amount of data input into the system, and improve it dramatically, but in the meantime, I predict there's going to be a severe backlash from cachers who are used to the rich data set that Google provided. Personally, I think I'll miss the Google satellite imagery more than anything else. I found it useful, not just for finding caches, but also verifying coordinates of caches I'd placed. The version of the iPhone geocaching app that's running on my phone still uses Google Maps, so I think I'll hold off updating, at least for the moment. *The Google API, (or Application Programming Interface) is the interface that Groundspeak uses to access the Google Maps data from its website and mobile applications.
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