Foursquare has started using crowdsourced maps on its desktop site, ditching the Google Maps API that it had used since launch.
This comes as the site embraces the OpenStreetMap movement, which is a Wikipedia-style effort to create free world street maps curated by its users.
Foursquare’s new interface is designed by start-up MapBox and for users it means that the maps, icons and colours will be slightly different the next time they log on.
This change in itself isn’t groundbreaking, but the motivation behind Foursquare’s move away from Google Maps reveals what could be a growing trend for commercial companies to spurn the service.
A blog post from Foursquare notes that in the last six months an increasing number of companies have migrated to other map providers. It highlights the examples of property search engines Nestoria and StreetEasy, and web designers Fubra.
Foursquare says it is using the OpenStreetMap platform as “we love the idea of open data,” but reveals that “the new Google Maps API pricing was the reason we initially started looking into other solutions.”
In October Google introduced charges for commercial companies that exceeded a daily usage limit – all the websites mentioned in the Foursquare blog also cite this as their prime reason for jumping ship.
While this isn't exactly going to undermine Google's overwhelmingly dominant position in online maps, it does reveal a chink in its armour.
Foursquare is a high profile social network and if it can prove that the OpenStreetMap data works just as well as Google Maps, then it may introduce real competition to the online mapping space, which could in turn be a good thing for businesses in the long term.