Facebook buys Swedish map company to compete with Google, Apple

Facebook has acquired a startup map company called Mapillary in what is likely an effort to compete with Google Maps and Apple Maps.

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The Swedish map company, founded in 2013, is similar to its competitors in that it uses advanced technology from satellite imagery, city data, photos and videos that its tens of thousands of members from around the world upload in an effort to deliver more accurate and reliable maps.

"From day one of Mapillary, we have been committed to building a global street-level imagery platform that allows everyone to get the imagery and data they need to make better maps,"  co-founder Jan Erik Solem said in a Thursday blog post. "Today, we’re excited to share that Mapillary has joined Facebook to be part of their open mapping efforts."

Mapillary map technology (Mapillary blog)

Facebook and Mapillary share the common goal of "building tools and technology to improve maps through a combination of machine learning, satellite imagery and partnerships with mapping communities," Solem added. Users have uploaded more than 1 billion photos that help advance the company's street view imagery.

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These advanced maps help provide people with more accurate traffic times, information about roadblocks and stoplights, up-to-date images of ever-changing areas and more.

They also "power products like Facebook Marketplace that drive transactions for millions of small businesses, and supply vital data to humanitarian organizations around the world," Solem wrote.

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Facebook is one of the most data-heavy big tech companies in the world with more than 2.5 billion users worldwide. The social media platform used data from its users during the coronavirus pandemic to create an interactive COVID-19 symptom-tracking map in collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Maryland.

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Google Maps is by far the most popular mapping app with more than 150 million users, according to 2018 data from Statista. Waze, which provides users with information on police presence, has more than 25 million users, and Apple Maps has more than 23 million.