The mapping platform, which shuttered a year ago, is being reborn.

Todd R. Weiss

February 4, 2019

4 Min Read
Open Source Mapping Platform Mapzen Returns to Life After Demise

In an intriguing turnaround, the once-shuttered Mapzen‘s open-source mapping work is now being reestablished as a full-fledged Linux Foundation project.

Several mapping industry veterans launched Mapzen in 2013, and it went into business in 2015, operated as a viable company with employees only through January 2018, but its mapping technologies had already proven to be solid and popular.

Even as it was shuttering, the company announced ways for users to get long-term support after its disappearance, signaling that it might not yet be truly dead.

Now those concerns are less of a worry as the Linux Foundation takes over Mapzen’s technologies to keep the mapping platform in development and use by the open-source community and users around the world.

Mapzen, which focused on the core components of map display including search and navigation, has been used by organizations including Eventbrite, Foursquare, Mapbox, The World Bank, Snapchat, HERE Technologies and Mapillary.

Its open platform provides developers with capabilities to take wide-ranging and customizable data sets and build them into vibrant maps equipped with search and routing services, according to the Linux Foundation. The data sets can be augmented with their own libraries and processed in real-time, which might not be possible with proprietary mapping or geo-tracking services.

With the Linux Foundation adopting it as an open-source project, Mapzen will continue its work to be open, sustainable and accessible to the user community.


Linux Foundation’s Jim Zemlin

“Mapzen is a high-utility technology for developers building aesthetically pleasing maps, which are increasingly important to a wide range of businesses and government agencies,” said Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation. “Mapzen’s open approach to software and data has allowed developers and businesses to create innovative, location-based applications that have changed our lives.”

By bringing the Mapzen platform into the Foundation, Zemlin said the group aims to extend  Mapzen’s impact even further around the globe in a wide range of industries that include transportation and traffic management, entertainment and photography.

To make that happen, the Foundation will provide neutral governance and organizational, professional, marketing, IP, legal and other support resources to the project.

“Mapzen is excited to join the Linux Foundation and continue our open, collaborative approach to mapping software and data,” said Randy Meech, the former CEO of Mapzen. Meech, who is now the CEO of StreetCred Labs, said the Linux Foundation will be able to help Mapzen grow stronger.


StreetCred Labs’ Randy Meech

The Mapzen platform has about 70,000 registered users. The project portfolio, now operated in the cloud and on premises by a wide range of organizations, includes the Tangram 2D/3D map rendering engine; Valhalla, a routing engine that can plan trips by car, bike, foot or public transit worldwide; and Pelias, a geocoding search engine which has earned about 1,500 stars on GitHub.

Developers have been using Mapzen to create applications or integrate them into other products and platforms.

Jon Schleuss, a data and graphics journalist at the Los Angeles Times, said his newsroom uses the Mapzen toolbox every day to build maps that supplement its stories.

Tangram has empowered our newsroom to make more maps faster,” he said. “It has given us the ability to create amazing maps from vector data for both online and in our printed newspaper. I am excited to see the future of those tools supported by the open -ource community.”

Another user, Matt Kamen, senior vice president of engineering at Foursquare, said he is glad to see the platform get new life.

“We support Mapzen in its mission to offer open-source geolocation technology for developers and organizations around the globe, and we’re happy to see that they’ve joined the Linux Foundation,” he said. “At Foursquare, we believe that the world needs access to location tech and insights from trusted, independent platforms. Tools like those from Foursquare and Mapzen spur creativity and innovation.”

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About the Author(s)

Todd R. Weiss

Todd R. Weiss is an award-winning technology journalist who covers open source and Linux, cloud service providers, cloud computing, virtualization, containers and microservices, mobile devices, security, enterprise applications, enterprise IT, software development and QA, IoT and more. He has worked previously as a staff writer for Computerworld and, covering a wide variety of IT beats. He spends his spare time working on a book about an unheralded member of the 1957 Milwaukee Braves, watching classic Humphrey Bogart movies and collecting toy taxis from around the world.

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