Facebook buys street-level mapping start-up Mapillary

The social network plans to take on Apple and Google in ground-level mapping

To compete with Apple and Google in mapping the world at ground level, Facebook has purchased Mapillary, a street-level imagery platform from Malmö, Sweden.

Founded in 2013, the startup uses computer vision software to identify specific objects (e.g., road markings, traffic signs) in photos uploaded by the public, enabling map builders to include the data in maps. Facebook plans to use this street-level data to improve the accuracy of maps on its platforms. 

Mapillary’s co-founder and CEO, Jan Erik Solem, announced the acquisition on the company’s blog. Terms of the deal were not announced. However, since its founding, Mapillary had raised $24.5 from investors, including Sequoia Capital, Atomico and BMW iVentures.

“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,” said Solem.

“With tens of thousands of contributors to our platform and with maps being improved with Mapillary data every single day, we’re now taking the next big step on that journey… Today, we’re excited to share that Mapillary has joined Facebook to be part of their open mapping efforts.”

Over the last decade, Apple and Google invested in street-level mapping. Facebook uses mapping to power some of its products, including Facebook Marketplace, which is where people can buy and sell products in their area.

Facebook plans to partner with mapping communities and employ machine learning and satellite imagery to improve its maps. Mapillary’s users can continue to upload imagery to the platform and use map data from its images, including for commercial purposes.

“Starting today, it will also be free to use for commercial users as well,” said Solem. “While we previously needed to focus on commercialization to build and run the platform, joining Facebook moves Mapillary closer to the vision we’ve had from day one of offering a free service to anyone.”

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