Craigslist has just gotten a major cartographic upgrade. The popular classified advertising website has quietly begun testing embedded maps on ads for housing in the San Francisco Bay and Portland, Oregon areas.
Craigslist’s new housing ad maps use data from OpenStreetMap, a website that seeks to offer free and reliable location data compiled by volunteers around the world (similar in principle to Wikipedia), as the OpenStreetMap Foundation first observed on August 21.
“They appear to be hosting the maps themselves,” wrote Richard Fairhurst, a board member of the nonprofit OpenStreetMap Foundation, which coordinates the project, in an email to TPM.
Specifically, PadMapper was sued for putting housing ads from Craigslist (as well as other brokers and realty listings websites) into a custom Google Maps view, showing the exact location of the houses listed in the ads as pins on a map. PadMapper said it obtained the data from 3taps, which in turn scrapes it from search engine listings of Craigslist posts.
Craigslist was widely criticized by tech bloggers for its move to prosecute the two startups, all the more so because the company, which launched in 1995 and incorporated in 1999, has for most of its history been heralded as a beacon of Web openness and user-friendliness.
So there’s a certain irony to Craigslist suing other companies for creating maps with Craigslist ad data — claiming a breach of proprietary content — then turning around and using an open, crowd-sourced mapping solution to create its own maps.
It’s unclear whether Craigslist plans to expand the maps to other locations or post categories. Craigslist did not return request for comment in time for the publication of this post.
Still, Craigslist’s new maps test is significant for another reason: The company becomes the latest major tech brand to choose OpenStreetMap over Google Maps for reliable location data. Apple, Foursquare and Wikipedia’s mobile app have all switched from Google Maps to OpenStreetMap this year alone. Major iPhone and iPad apps will also be changing from Google Maps to OpenStreetMap once it becomes the default on the iPhone and iPad this fall, with the release of Apple’s update mobile operating system, iOS6.
The defections are thought to be due to Google’s decision to begin charging heavy users of its Google Maps API (application programming interface — the code which allows third-party apps to use Google Maps data) in January. Google recently reduced the charges, with a company release saying Google had been “listening carefully to feedback.”