MapBox, A Contributor To OpenStreetMap, Gets $575K From The Knight Foundation

While Apple continues to weather very bad press (and embarrassing photographic evidence) over its fumble on Maps in iOS 6, here’s another development in the mapping world, also related to an Apple service. MapBox, which contributes to the open-source OpenStreetMap, used in Apple’s iPhoto service, is getting an injection of cash. Today MapBox announced a grant of $575,000 from the Knight Foundation, which it says it will use to help improve the core infrastructure of OpenStreetMap — a boost for open data.

OpenStreetMap, you may recall, is used by Apple for location data for iPhoto for iPhone — something it took a while for Apple to acknowledge. Apple picking up OpenStreetMap data, and dropping Google in the process, seemed to prefigure what it would do in its bigger mapping efforts in a move away from the search giant. But rather than taking all of its products over to its own maps solution, it’s still using other data for certain services, like iPhoto. OpenStreetMap is still included in the acknowledgements for iPhoto in the most current version.

“Our goal is to use this investment to make it easier to add data to OpenStreetMap, make more social to support the community as it continues its rapid growth, and make it easier for people to get data out of OpenStreetMap to make their own maps,” Alex Barth, who leads the data team at MapBox, noted in a blog post announcing the news.

He notes that the tools will continue to remain open source with data stored on platforms like GitHub.

The company has been working with the Knight Foundation for the past few months, with the basis of that being the commitment to open data.

Given all the hullaballoo over Apple’s Maps and what Google may or may not do in response to the news, and the fact that Nokia is also ramping up massively in this space — Nokia’s mapping data is one of the key assets that it is managing to leverage in third party deals, at a time when its handset business continues to remain massively challenged; and it’s also pushing hard present its own handsets as unique and special because of its strength in map data — this is a key moment for the space.

In that sense, this can help the OpenStreetMap project continue to keep its hat in the ring amidst all of these other proprietary endeavors.

Barth notes, “We think the work [this funding] allows will make our biggest impact yet.”

Others that use OpenStreetMap data include Foursquare, NPR and Wikipedia.