Facebook acquires street-level mapping start-up Mapillary

22 Jun 2020

The Mapillary team. Image: Mapillary

Facebook has acquired Mapillary, a Google Street View competitor that uses computer vision to map communities, businesses and cities.

Jan Erik Solem, CEO and co-founder of street-level mapping start-up Mapillary, has announced that the Swedish firm has been acquired by Facebook.

Powered by computer vision, Mapillary captures street-level imagery to map communities, businesses and cities. The start-up has been described as “a crowdsourced Google Street View” by Engadget, offering an alternative to Google’s platform.

The company was founded in 2013. Solem’s previous start-up Polar Rose, which was focused on facial recognition, was acquired by Apple in 2010.

In a blogpost about the latest acquisition, Solem said that Mapillary has seen tens of thousands of contributions to its platform over the years to help improve maps. The CEO said the company is now taking “the next big step” on that journey by joining Facebook.

The acquisition

“We’re excited to share that Mapillary has joined Facebook to be part of their open mapping efforts,” Solem wrote. “As some of you know, Facebook is building tools and technology to improve maps through a combination of machine learning, satellite imagery and partnerships with mapping communities, as part of their mission to bring the world closer together.”

Solem explained that these maps support products such as Facebook Marketplace and supply data to humanitarian organisations. He said that Mapillary’s mission was to build the tools for creating a living and visual representation of every place in the world, made available for anyone to update.

“By merging our efforts, we will further improve the ways that people and machines can work with both aerial and street-level imagery to produce map data,” Solem said. “Lots of exciting results will come out of this, including the data we all need to make better maps.”

According to Solem, the start-up’s goal is to continue providing a platform for imagery and map data.

Users will still be able to upload imagery. This imagery will remain open and free for anyone to use, as well as opening up to commercial users for the first time. Solem added that the team will remain committed to the OpenStreetMap project.

“The plan is for the rights given to OpenStreetMap editors to remain unchanged and for our work with OpenStreetMap communities and companies to continue on the same path as always,” he wrote.

By joining Facebook, Solem said, Mapillary moves “closer to the vision” it has had from day one of offering a free service to anyone.

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic