Updated 8/3/12 at 12.20 GMT

Judging by comments to this blog post, on Twitter and on Google Plus, the consensus seems to be that yes, Apple is using OSM data from 2010 outside of the US; inside of the US it’s (probably) TIGER data and no, there doesn’t seem to be attribution and Apple may well be getting a communiqué from OSM to that effect. Other sources of information on this include

… and now, back to the original post.

We live in a world dominated by and surrounded by brands. One of the hallmarks of a successful brand is whether it’s able to be immediately recognised as that brand, without necessarily looking too deeply for a brand label. Look at a car and you’ll probably be able to tell whether it’s a Ford or not. Look at a laptop and you’ll probably be able to tell whether it’s Apple’s or one of those faceless, grey, consumer models. Look at an espresso cup and you’ll probably be able to tell whether it’s got coffee from Illy in it.

As it is in the real, offline world, so it is in the digital, online world and nowhere is this more prevalent than in the world of digital maps. Each mapping provider has an immediately recognisable look, feel and style to it. You can tell whether the map is from Nokia or NAVTEQ, from Google, from Mapquest or from OpenStreetMap. Now granted, a digital map is the product of lots of data sources but the map’s style is unique; although OpenStreetMap’s style is almost the exception as there’s several styles you can use.

Ever since the launch of the original iPhone, for Apple that look and feel of their maps have been Google’s. Even before you look to the bottom right hand corner of the map and see the Google logo you’ll know it’s a Google map. There’s also been lots of rumours that with Apple’s acquisitions in the mapping space, C3 and Placebase to name but a few, it wouldn’t be too long before Apple had their own map.

Maybe that time has now come, for iPhoto on iOS at least. Take a look at the screen grabs above. These maps aren’t, at least at face value, Google’s. The map style isn’t Google’s and even more interestingly, there’s no immediately apparent copyright or brand notice anywhere on the map. Is this Apple’s new map or is it another map provider’s under a license that doesn’t need branding?

Thanks must go to follow Nokian Andrea Trasatti for spotting this on MacRumors; there’s also commentary on this over at 512 Pixels as well.

Photo Credits courtesy of MacRumors.
Written and posted from home (51.427051, -0.333344)
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A self-professed map addict, Gary has worked in the mapping and location space for over 20 years through a combination of luck and occasional good judgement. Gary is co-founder of Malstow Geospatial, which provides handmade, professional geospatial consulting. A Fellow of the RGS, he tweets about maps, writes about them and even makes them.


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Richard Fairhurst said ...

Data for outside the US, at z11 and greater, is OpenStreetMap from early April 2010. (The US looks like raw TIGER, perhaps.)

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Gary said ...

Ed Parsons and I were having the same conversation over on Google Plus ... but if it is OSM data shouldn't there be attribution visible?

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Richard Fairhurst said ...

Yes, there should! We're drafting up a (friendly) note to send them.

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Ed Parons said ...

Perhaps Steve and Mikel could draft a public blog post accusing Apple of theft ?

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Why companies are moving away from Google Maps to OpenStreetMap – « thinkwhere

[...] the twitterverse and blogosphere were abuzz with the discovery that Apple had made the switch to use OpenStreetMap in their iPhoto application. At the moment, it [...]

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Gary said ...

Judging by the thread on OSM-Talk that may yet happen, though not as a public blog post hopefully.


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