This is a big endorsement of the quality of data coming out of the open, crowd sourced mapping project, OpenStreetMaps. As Sarah Perez at RWW explains AOL’s mapping service, MapQuest, will be offering an option to use their newly updated UI with the data generated by the open mapping project. The open version of the map will be available in the UK, first, because of the higher quality of data collected, and later on will cover the US.
As part of the launch of MapQuest Open, AOL is setting up an investment fund to encourage open mapping. In particular, they are hoping to improve open map data already in use with AOL’s local news and listing service, Patch. However the support comes and wherever its focused, this is a case where everyone looking to build on top of open map data will benefit.
I tend to concur with Perez’s conclusion, that this is a highly competitive move by MapQuest rather than a purely altruistic move. License fees for geo data are exorbitant and AOL is undoubtedly able to trim quite a bit of fat with MapQuest Open, freeing up finding to really focus on the value added services, like Patch, that at least partially rely on maps.
What I really like, that Perez doesn’t dig into, is that by supporting a commons for mapping, AOL is making it possible for others to compete against the likes of Google and Big, too.