It seems implausible for anyone to try and take on Google at their own game at this stage. But that didn’t stop Apple from launching Apple Maps (which was initially a disaster). Google Street View doesn’t really have a competitor in the market, but Facebook may want to change that. The social media giant has bought Mapillary, with which it wants to take on Street View.
Mapillary has been around since 2013, and has largely relied on crowdsourced images. Users from more than 190 countries have been taking photos from their own neighbourhoods and their travels around the world using their phones. Mapillary collects these images and stitches them together with innovative software, and build a street-level view comparative to Google Street View.
The business was being run as a free service for non-commercial users, with usage packages at a fee created for large-scale commercial use. This ends with the Facebook acquisition, and all commercial use is now also free.
It gives us a very good idea of what Facebook plan to do with Mapillary. While there has been no confirmation from the company, expect the street-level imagery to be included on Facebook pages of the businesses on the platform.
Facebook has dabbled in other mapping technologies in the past, which will be bolstered by this acquisition as well. Facebook created an AI tool for OpenStreetMap users on its platform last year. It also plans to create an AR world that is based on its mapping of the Earth (to be used with its upcoming AR glasses).
It isn’t clear if Facebook will choose to push Mapillary as a standalone competitor to Google Street View or if it will absorbed into its own business. For many it makes that is stays independent – with Facebook resources it could post a viable alternative to Google Street View in the future. This is something Apple Maps and Bing Maps have not been able to do.