Microsoft has hired OpenStreetMap founder Steve Coast, the company announced this week.
OpenStreetMap was developed by Coast as a kind of Wikipedia for maps – users can edit and make changes to features on the map. So far over 327,000 people have done so.
As part of the deal, Microsoft will provide access to Bing Aerial Imagery for use in OpenStreetMap, so that maps can be layered on top of the imagery in the same way as Google Maps. OpenStreetMap currently only has a patchwork of imagery available of varying quality.
Meanwhile Coast will become principal architect for Bing Mobile, helping Bing users access and use a whole range of open-source spatial data.
Coast was keen to emphasise the deal does not give Microsoft any hold or influence over OpenStreetMap.
“OSM continues to be independent as it always will be, and I will continue in my roles to push the OSM cause forward,” Coast wrote on his blog last week.
Microsoft has also promised to develop a set of tools that will make it easier for OSM contributors to submit data.