A beginner's guide to Mapillary

If you're new to Mapillary and wondering how to get started, read this first.
Martijn van Exel
Navjyot Sandhu
31 August 2022

Welcome to Mapillary! Chances are that if you’re reading this, you’re totally new to the Mapillary platform and are looking to learn more about it and how to get started. In short, Mapillary is a crowdsourced street-level imagery platform. “Crowdsourced” means that all the images on the app are contributed by users like YOU! Mapillary serves to bring together contributors from all over the globe with the goal of making street-level imagery and map data freely available to everyone.

Why Mapillary?

Now, you might be asking yourself: why would I contribute to Mapillary? Well, there are a number of reasons to get started:

First off, it’s fun to be part of this community. Contributors from all over the world are teaming up to achieve this goal of covering every street in the world with images. You can take part in Challenges, see your ranking rise on the leaderboard, and discuss tips, tricks and progress on the forums or our Facebook group.

Secondly, when we say “freely available”, we really mean it. You can open Google, Apple or Bing Maps and get street views in large parts of the world. But, many areas don’t have coverage, and the coverage can be quite old in some places. There is nothing we, as a global community, can do about that. Plus, there’s limits to what you are allowed to do with the images those providers offer. Mapillary images are liberally licensed, so they can be freely used for research and map-making. In fact, contributors to the world’s best known crowdsourced map, OpenStreetMap, use Mapillary images to improve the open map data that hundreds of millions of people see every day! No wonder that many Mapillary contributors also become OpenStreetMap contributors, and vice versa—we all love maps!

How to Contribute to Mapillary

If you’re ready to get started contributing to Mapillary, all you need to give Mapillary a try is your smartphone!

First, go to the App Store (iOS) or Play Store (Android) and download the Mapillary app. You can either register an account now or continue as a guest if you’d just like to take a look around first.

Once in the app, you’ll notice that, by default, you’re taken to the “Explore” tab where you can look around the area surrounding you; you might see a number of green lines in the roads around you. If you pinch to zoom in, you’ll notice that these lines actually connect circles (aka “nodes”) that represent individual photos. A series of connected nodes makes up a sequence! This is the key unit of Mapillary – users capture sequences and then upload them to Mapillary’s servers for processing. Tap any node and you can then see street-level imagery in that location along a sequence.

The easiest and most straightforward way to play around with the Mapillary app is to go out and capture your own sequence! We suggest just trying it by walking around your neighborhood or the area around a nearby park – anywhere where there might be a convenient footpath. Start by going to the “Capture” tab on the bottom, and you’ll see your device swap to a view of your camera. Now, you can just point your camera in the direction of the path you’re traveling, press the red circle to begin recording, and walk along the path! Tap the circle again to stop recording, and you’ve successfully captured your first sequence.

Once you’ve captured the sequence, you can then view the photos that comprise the sequence and decide if you’d like to remove any prior to uploading; then, all you have to do is press upload and your sequence will be sent to Mapillary! (Please note that you must be logged in to your account to upload your sequences.)

At this point, you simply have to wait a few hours to a day for your sequence to complete processing, and it will then be viewable to all Mapillary users. The exact amount of time it takes for your sequences to process can vary depending on the amount of data in the uploads.

If you go to the profile tab, you can view your sequences that are uploaded or processing for upload.

For those of you who are particularly competitive, Mapillary also has a leaderboard function! Previously only available on the Mapillary web app, leaderboards are now (as of August 2022) viewable on the iOS and Android apps. Able to be filtered by country or city, leaderboards show the top 50 contributing users, by number of images submitted to Mapillary. Stay tuned because Mapillary is hard at work to introduce ways to reward our top contributors, so there’ll be plenty of incentive to stay at the top.

What's next?

Now that you’ve been able to give Mapillary a try on foot, you might be thinking that it’s rather inefficient to capture large amounts of street-level imagery in this way – and you’d be right! That’s why Mapillary encourages users to try capturing imagery from vehicles (such as bikes and cars) that allow for the capture of much more imagery, much faster. In order to do so, we recommend trying out a phone mount to capture Mapillary imagery while on the go. For the time being, we’d like to direct users to this help desk article about Mapillary and mobile phones, but stay in touch for a future blog post with specific phone mount recommendations!

Speaking of which, in order to keep up-to-date with Mapillary developments, we highly recommend paying frequent visits to the Mapillary blog! There will be plenty of future blog posts about how to best use Mapillary, FAQs, exciting user stories, and many other topics.

If you’d like to read more about some of the exciting ways that organizations all over the globe are partnering with Mapillary, check out our showcase on the official Mapillary website! Some of the exciting ways Mapillary is being used right now include: the City of Oslo, Norway using Mapillary to map bicycle infrastructure in 360 degrees, youthmappers in Sierra Leone working with Arizona State University to map remote villages with the Mapillary mobile app to understand electricity networks and access, the Connecticut Department of Transportation using Mapillary to visualize all state roads they manage and monitor road quality, and many more.

Lastly, we’d like to leave you with this: the best time to get started is today! Give Mapillary a try for yourself, and see if the community is a good fit for you. Pay a visit to the Mapillary Forum, take a look at what people are working on, and take the opportunity to really see what this community can achieve!

/ Martijn and Navjyot