If you recently updated Pokémon Go, you should have noticed the in-game map looking radically different. It’s because the hugely popular mobile game has finally cut loose Google Maps in favor of using OpenStreetMap (OSM) for its in-game display.
While Pokémon Go has been using OSM under the hood to influence ‘spawn points’ within the game for over a year now, gamemaker Niantic (a Google company until 2015) had been using Google Maps for overworld landscaping. Until now.
The update was first spotted by users in Australia last week, and quickly validated by a Reddit thread from Canada. While the rollout seems to be gradual, the United States, South America and several Asian countries have already confirmed the visual changes.
OSM allows users to edit the map with their local knowledge of the geographical features around them. Which means, while Google Maps might not know that there is a pool or an underground garage in your building, OSM allows you to add a water body or another obscure landmark in your vicinity. (OSM, of course, expects its volunteers to be honest with their edits.)
Now, while these changes translate into a better gaming experience for most users, there have been some instances where the results have been the complete opposite.
If you have an active OSM user in your area, you should definitely see more details on the map. And if you don’t, you can always take it as an opportunity to explore cartography. In essence, the OSM community is what makes the project so special. Thousands of volunteers from all around the globe are updating the map as their world changes around them. Every update is immediately visible to all other users and is version controlled. There are no corporate map cycle releases, approvals and KPIs that are typical to large organizations like Google.
Intrigued? Check out these tips that OSM has released for new Pokémon Go mappers before you start!