Mapeo: The Next Chapter

Gregor MacLennan
June 21, 2023

Mapeo Blog Series: a look into the process of co-developing innovative offline digital tools for social justice.

The series will highlight what’s next for Mapeo, its exciting new features, our learnings and challenges in co-designing a tool that responds to earth defender’s mapping needs in diverse territories.

Mapeo is an easy-to-learn tool for mapping and documenting the world around you. It works without internet, yet — through the power of peer-to-peer technology — it allows groups to collaborate completely offline. It has proven a critical tool for hundreds of communities around the world with limited access to internet and limited technical experience,  who use the maps and evidence from Mapeo to defend some of the most biodiverse places on the planet.

This year we are launching a major upgrade to the Mapeo platform (working title: “Mapeo Next”) that lays the foundation for the next chapter of Mapeo’s development: improved reliability, performance, security, and highly-demanded new features like GPS tracking and audio and video recording.

This blog post is the first in a series:

  1. Mapeo: The next chapter (this post)
  2. Our collaborative design process
  3. Lesons from building a decentralized app
  4. How peer-to-peer works and why it is important
  5. Better security through projects and invites
  6. Under-the-hood: controlling access in decentralized system
  7. The new Mapeo: features and how to get started

Why the upgrade?

We started building Mapeo over seven years ago from humble beginnings with very limited resources. The peer-to-peer, offline-first nature of the app was unprecedented, and proved extremely useful to many communities around the world who have limited internet access and no easy way to maintain or pay for servers. The app has evolved as we learn from partners on the ground of their needs, and we have worked hard to turn what was a prototype and proof of concept into a reliable app that has been deployed to hundreds of communities around the world. However, the underlying structure of the database, which has barely changed since Mapeo’s first version, is creaking under the weight of the now-mature app, and there is some persistent unreliability with the offline synchronization that has been almost impossible to fix. New features like GPS tracks have also proven very difficult to implement with our existing code.

The earliest version of Mapeo desktop - an offline fork of OpenStreetMap's iD Editor

Mapeo Core “Next”

We call “Mapeo Core”, the peer-to-peer database that powers Mapeo. In order to solve the problems with the database, over the past year we have been rewriting this database. This rewrite will enable:

  • Improved reliability of synchronization between devices
  • Easy-to-create, secure, encrypted projects
  • Control and better visibility about who is part of a project
  • Synchronization over the internet (Mapeo will continue to support offline in-person synchronization)
  • New features like GPS tracks and audio recordings

Upgrade timeline

Mapeo Next will be ready for early testers by late 2023. We will initially test this with a limited number of partners to catch any errors in the app, and hope to launch the new app more widely at the end of 2023 / early 2024.

What does the upgrade mean for existing Mapeo users?

The new version of Mapeo, although it will look and behave very similarly to the current version of Mapeo (Mapeo 5), will not be compatible with Mapeo 5. To use Mapeo Next, users will need to convert (or “migrate”) their data to a new format. We have worked very hard to try to find a way around this need to migrate data, but the decentralized nature of the app makes this kind of upgrade very technically challenging.

Design explorations of the upcoming Migration feature

However, Mapeo 5 users do not need to upgrade. Mapeo Next will be launched as a separate app, and the current Mapeo app will continue to work and users will be able to continue using it forever. However some of the current bugs in Mapeo 5 may never be fixed, and there will not likely be any new features for Mapeo 5 users unless they upgrade.

We will be covering options for existing users in more detail in an upcoming blog post.

Next steps

Over the coming weeks and months we are excited to share more details about the Mapeo Next upgrade and all the new features that we will be able to build on the more robust Mapeo Core Next platform.

Since Mapeo is an open source software that benefits from continued feedback from our users across the world, we welcome your suggestions and we would love to hear from you! 


Email us at

You can also find us on Discord!

Read more about Mapeo and download it at

Mapeo Mobile for Android is available on the Google Play Store 

Mapeo Mobile is also available for install by downloading the Android APK

Published by
Gregor MacLennan
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