Foursquare has revealed that it is to stop using the Google Maps API and instead work with data from OpenStreetMap, specifically through MapBox. The company explained that a number of reasons were behind the change, including this giving Foursquare greater design flexibility and enabling it to work with more open source technology.
Foursquare also admitted that "Google Maps API pricing was the reason we initially started looking into other solutions", although it claimed the switch ultimately occurred because "after all of our research and testing, OpenStreetMap and MapBox was simply the best fit for us". Although when we reported on the new pricing structure for the Google Maps API back in October 2011, we reasoned that indies might be hit by the changes, it's a surprise to see a relative industry giant move to an open solution.
Lomalogue Ltd founder Rik Lomas told .net that while he understood Foursquare's desire to switch on financial grounds, he questionned the decision: "Maps are such an important part of Foursquare's business, but I don't think OpenStreetMap is ready for the big time yet. There are still a lot of areas that aren't covered." He referenced comments on one blog post, where someone complained "It's just showing nothing here", and said while it's all well and good to tell a person to go out and fix this themselves, you should expect a better, more complete service as a customer. "Personally, I also think the map design looks a little worse than Google Maps – it's clunkier and garish," added Lomas. "And while I do think it's good that there is an open source alternative out there, it's currently only a good alternative – not a great one."