Russian internet giant Mail.ru has opened up the source code for its MAPS.ME application so developers can utilise the crowdsourced maps in their apps. The announcement was made at the Global Mobile Internet Conference in San Francisco.

Mail.ru acquired MAPS.ME in late 2014. The service is a mapping app built on data from OpenStreetMap (OSM), the non-profit focused on developing and making available mapping and navigation data for online and offline use.

The app has been installed 25 million times since the acquisition, according to Mail.ru, with humanitarian groups and activists among its user base, who often use the crowdsourcing maps in rural areas, disaster zones, or regions struck by political tensions where internet access is lacking or other mapping services do not cover.

By opening up the code, more people will be able to access these maps and contribute to their development along with OpenStreetMap’s two million-strong community of editors that manage and keep maps up to date.

The Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) is one such organisation that gathers and updates mapping data in remote regions.

“We will benefit directly from MAPS.ME’s decision to open source their applications and have already started planning for how we can provide our humanitarian focused geographic data and maps for use in the MAPS.ME application,” said Blake Girardot, from the board of directors at HOT.

“Opening MAPS.ME is an important step not just for us, but for the whole free mapping community, because OSM will become even more accessible for a wider audience, which, I hope, will attract new editors to join this outstanding movement,” added Yury Melnichek, head of maps business unit at Mail.Ru.

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