2023 was a banner year for Mapillary. In October, the platform officially turned 10 years old; this past year, we also reached the milestone of 2 billion total images! We could’ve never reached this point without the support of the global mapping community. We commemorated the occasion by hosting a celebratory webinar, where we gave away Mapillary swag and a GoPro Max. You can watch the recording of the event.
We also wanted to celebrate by reviewing what 10 years of Mapillary means to us and all that the community has accomplished and contributed.
For a brief reflection on 10 years of Mapillary, we asked one of Mapillary’s founders, Jan Erik Solem, to tell us about the experience of starting Mapillary and how far it’s come in the last decade:
In 2013, the mapping landscape was radically different — there was a great need in the market for a neutral provider of imagery and data, and the demand for street-level imagery was high, as services like Google Street View lacked dense image coverage in many countries where they were offered. This, along with such projects being limited to specialized vehicular capture, led to the idea of Mapillary taking greater shape.
The development of Mapillary was also spurred on by advancements in smartphone technology. After all, if everyone was now carrying in their pockets high-quality, GPS and web-enabled cameras, anyone would be able to collect and share geotagged images for others to use, including in places that cars couldn’t access. This possibility meant that if we could build a community around the idea that anyone motivated enough could contribute to an open repository of street-level images, we would be able to generate an ever-growing map of all parts of the world.
Furthermore, developments in computer vision technology meant that we could take 2D images uploaded to Mapillary and use them to reconstruct places in a 3D space, which is how we achieve continuous transitions between images on Mapillary.
On October 8th, 2013, the very first Mapillary sequence was captured. A short month later, the service officially went live, along with the first version of the iOS app. In January of 2014, Mapillary’s Android app was released, and the stage was now set to reach as many new users as possible.
In response to a Google Maps promotional video advertising Street View images of the canals in Venice, Italy, we decided to put our own spin on things and capture Mapillary imagery of the canals in Venice Beach, Los Angeles. We thought this would be a good (albeit tongue-in-cheek) way to illustrate one of the key capabilities of Mapillary – the ability to capture imagery anywhere that anyone could traverse on-foot, without an expensive camera rig (these canals were noticeably absent from Google Street View at the time).
By mid-2014, Mapillary had grown to several thousand active users, with 900,000 images in the first 14 weeks of the product being live. In addition, we had users and communities now mapping out entire cities in Europe.
From there, Mapillary has only continued to flourish. 5 years after launching, Mapillary was home to over 375 million images. At the end of 2019, we passed the threshold of a billion images. In August of 2023, we crossed over 2 billion images worldwide!
In the decade that’s passed since Mapillary launched, the open mapping community has both grown and achieved so much. Together, we’ve managed to build a scalable way to quickly create map data and the means to make that map data openly available to everyone.
The Mapillary community has been able to come together and achieve spectacular things year after year. This past year, we featured a number of blog posts spotlighting the community’s efforts.
Stéphane de Greef (left) & Federico Debetto (right)
For example, the Mapillary team had the chance to speak with users like Stéphane De Greef and Federico Debetto, who were able to channel their enthusiasm for mapping into large-scale projects using Mapillary. Stéphane mapped the entirety of Brussels, Belgium via bicycle, and Federico turned his passions for street-level photography and mapping into a years-long journey capturing 360° imagery in remote corners of the world.
We also heard from a team of citizen cyclists documenting bike paths in Mexico City and a YouthMappers-led project in Nigeria, where students documented accessibility and electrification of local health facilities, both of which made use of the fact that Mapillary data is accessible and open to all. These projects illustrate the importance of open map data as a community resource.
Mapillary also saw contributions from users like Joscelin Trouwborst, who mapped the majority of Curaçao in 360°, and networklanman, who captured a staggering 18 million images across North America this past year, jumping to #2 on Mapillary’s all-time leaderboard.
In addition to these specific community projects, Mapillary continues to serve as an important street-level image layer for use with editing OpenStreetMap, allowing contributors to verify attributes such as building and road characteristics when making OSM edits. Mapillary also frequently serves as a tool for humanitarian organizations such as Humanitarian OpenStreetMap and government agencies, such as cities and their Departments of Transportation. For example, Washington D.C. and its Department of Public Works maintain an annual project where the vehicles the city uses for leaf collection simultaneously capture Mapillary imagery, allowing the city to monitor progress and keep an inventory of its streets and their leaf collection status.
For a look at even more community highlights across the last 10 years of Mapillary, we encourage you to watch our celebratory webinar hosted by members of the Mapillary team.
We’re incredibly grateful that a community has rallied behind Mapillary in these 10 years to make it something truly special. Put simply, Mapillary could not succeed without the community’s continued support. It is only through the efforts and contributions of mappers around the globe that Mapillary has become a worthwhile endeavor and something we strive to constantly iterate upon and improve.
In closing, we’d like to leave you with a quote from Jan Erik Solem:
“When I give guest lectures at the local university, one of the things I tell people is to pick an idea you want to work with for at least 10 years because it takes [that long] to build something great. If you fail, then you fail after a year or two, but if you’re successful and keep doing it, it’s going to [require] a decade of your life. Choose your ideas wisely. It took a decade to get to where we are today.”
Thanks for reading! If you’d like to get in touch with us, please feel free to send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or post on the Mapillary forums.
/Nav & The Mapillary Team