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To far, no other software company has been able to meaningfully threaten Google’s hegemony in the digital mapping space. As a result, the Linux Foundation is working with companies like Meta and Microsoft to create a data map that is both open and interoperable.

It is estimated that Google’s Maps division would generate approximately $4.5 billion in revenue for the company in 2018. Seeing as how no other tech firm has been able to compete with Google Maps, Meta, Microsoft, and Amazon have decided to team up with other tech firms to create a digital map service to rival Google’s. Credit: AFP for the Picture

In spite of the Linux Foundation’s oversight, companies including Amazon Web Services (AWS), Facebook’s parent corporation Meta, Microsoft, and Dutch mapping giant TomTom will be the primary drivers of the Overture Maps Foundation initiative.

The mission of the Overture Maps Foundation is to create innovative map-based products through the creation of open-source datasets. Since the open-source map may be used by any company or group, it will constantly evolve as more people and organisations contribute their own data and resources to the project. Open-source products often don’t function that way, but this will be the first open-source initiative to have many large technology businesses working together.

According to Linux Foundation director of operations Jim Zemlin, “mapping the physical environment and every community in the globe, even as they expand and evolve, is an enormously difficult job that no one organisation can manage.” That’s why “industry needs to join together to achieve this for the good of everybody.”

Future technologies, including those needed for the Metaverse, in which Meta has made significant investments, will likewise rely largely on spatial mapping.

Jan Erik Solem, engineering director for Maps at Meta, chimed in, saying, “Immersive experiences, which comprehend and blend into your physical surroundings, are key to the embodied internet of the future.” Overture paves the way for creators, developers, and enterprises to build an open metaverse by providing interoperable open map data.

This new effort is being viewed as a threat to Google’s hegemony in the digital mapping space. Google wasn’t just the first internet business to invest heavily in mapping; they were also the first to successfully monetize maps on a massive scale.

Google expects to earn around $4.5 billion this year from its Maps product alone. About $0.8 billion of this will come from its API & partnership businesses, which include letting other firms use a customised version of Google Maps for order tracking, including Uber, Swiggy, Zomato, and the like.

The remaining $3.7 billion will come from Google’s branded map pins and advertisements that appear on top of local company listings. And this year, Google has added a number of new capabilities that make it possible for hyper-local companies to advertise on Maps without first having to get listed with Google.

All of these estimates are just that, estimates; Google’s internal data indicates which part of the business earns what type of income, so you can see exactly where the money is coming from.

The establishment of the Overture Maps Foundation is consistent with broader developments in the information technology sector, which have seen an uptick in the value placed on decentralised, interoperable networks that adhere to the appropriate regulatory and social guidelines. This has led to the widespread prediction that monopolies and duopolies will soon be extinct.

While large internet companies like Google and Apple have promoted closed payment ecosystems, the Linux Foundation has formed the OpenWallet Foundation to build open standards for digital wallets.

There are currently just four founding members, but the group hopes to grow to include any business that has a direct financial stake in open map data.

The Overture Maps Foundation has said that “fundamental” layers including roads, buildings, and administrative information will be included in the first datasets to be released in the first half of 2023. Further locations, navigational aids, and 3D models of existing structures will be added in due time.