Friday, July 8, 2011

Offline maps of the world

For a long time I dreamed to create a map. A map that will be easy to use, one that will need no network connection, with fresh data, fast and working everywhere. My experience as an engineer in Google Maps only strengthened this dream. And finally, after leaving Google and a great travel around the world, I took the plunge. Maybe one day I will tell how I left Google Zurich, about astonished reactions of people around me, and how I continued working on this project with my friends out of sheer enthusiasm.

The effort culminated on April 12 when we released the first version for iPhone and iPad! (Support for Android, Mac and Windows followed soon).

Here’s how it works. You’re planning to visit a foreign country, and of course you’re going to take along your trusty android or iPhone, a laptop, a tablet, or maybe all of those together. Before you go, you install the application and quickly get the map of the destination country (brownie points if the app is already installed and you just refresh the data). And when we say quickly, we mean it: the whole map of Switzerland weighs 58 MB, of Belarus - 45 MB. Large countries like the US will, of course be bigger, but in the next version, we will let you get the data for individual states, and we’ll compress the data by further 25%.

Besides the map, the first version of application included a travel guide to read about the place you’re visiting, the attractions, events and so on.

And the best thing is, from the moment you updated, no Internet connection will be necessary. So if you need to find the nearest restaurant in Paris or an open WiFi point in London, the data will be right there for you, all without those pesky roaming charges.

The map data comes from OpenStreetMap, the travel guide from WikiTravel, and we plan to integrate other data sources to let you find restaurants, museums, hotels and other services.

One more thing. The program is free.

We’re planning to earn money through complementary services. For example, if you search for a restaurants, we’ll show you ads for restaurants in your vicinity, will offer coupons and even help you make a reservation (if you happen to be online). This way, geo-targeted advertisement will be an additional useful service rather than an annoying distraction.
Our plans are huge. In the next version, we’ll add search. We’re working to improve the rendering quality and to make it faster. We’re looking for investors, and we’ll accelerate the development when we get funded. We are also looking for a graphical designer.

To summarize, we want to make maps free and available to everybody and everywhere.

Comments welcome,
Yury Melnichek