OpenStreetMap grows, spawns ecosystem

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Mobuzz Folds After All

This is a guest post by Ed Freyfogle, co-founder of property search engine Nestoria.

OpenStreetMap started four years ago in the UK as a project to create a free and editable world map. What began as a few geogeeks wandering the streets with their GPS’s has turned into a global movement with over 75,000 registered contributors. The database has improved rapidly in quality and comprehensiveness, as have the tools and services around it. OSM is becoming a viable datasource for complex projects.

OpenStreetMap UK Jan 2007 v Aug 2008

The project’s stats are another demonstration of the awesome power of a motivated online mob. The passion of some of the volunteers is shocking; there’s even a student attempting to go his entire time at uni using only OSM maps. The result is that the OSM now compares favourably versus some professionally gathered geodata. Most impressive has been the takeup in Germany: 300 volunteers mapped 99.8% of Hamburg (German), and there is now a German-language OpenStreetMap book.

OSM has spawned numerous related projects, the most prominent of which is OpenCycleMap which takes the base OSM data and renders it slightly differently, giving emphasis to features relevant to cyclists. OCM was recently commended by the British Cartographic Society and is an example of the technical innovation that free access to the underlying geographic data allows. Similarly several groups are working on using OSM for open source routing applications.

As the biggest commercial geodata providers Tele Atlas and NAVTEQ have been acquired, the intensity of their competition in (and focus on) major markets has increased. As a result in many parts of the developing world OSM is now the most comprehensive online mapping available, for example see this comparison of online maps of Baghdad or compare for yourself: Mashad in Iran (OSM, Google) or Kinshasa in the Dem. Rep. of Congo (OSM, Google). This summer’s annual State of the Map Conference had representatives from most major European countries and five continents.

Tellingly, while most of the audience at the conference was the usual hard core of geo-enthusiasts, many businesses were represented (including Google and Ordnance Survey) and there were a few VCs in attendance. Which brings us to the next phase in the OSM’s growth: commercial utilization. Companies have been using OSM data in proof of concept implementations for some time. Recently though the examples have become more prolific and more public: see flickr’s use of OSM. Some businesses are starting to rely on OSM for parts of their product offering, for example Wikitravel uses OSM derived maps in their printed travel guides.

New start-ups like CloudeMade in the UK and Geofabrik in Germany are being founded and funded around the business model of providing services around OSM (see TechCrunch coverage of CloudMade funding). The exact revenues of these companies is unclear (and likely still negligible) but the general concept of providing consulting and value-added services around a free (and complex) asset is well entrenched. This year’s acquisition of MySQL by Sun is only the most recent successful (and European) example. One certainty is that the recent explosion of interest in online cartography has lead to the development of an increasingly sophisticated “open source geo stack” that will pressure traditional GIS software companies.

The big players are increasingly trying to use crowd sourcing methods to improve their proprietary databases – see Tele Atlas’s use of Tomtom data or Google’s MapMaker, while savvy (and smaller) businesses are realising that there is much to be gained by working together with the OSM community. Smaller digital mapping services like Autopoietic Systems, Tann Limited (ASTL) and Holland’s Automotive Navigation Data (AND) have donated significant amounts of data OSM.

OpenStreetMap and the tools around it still have a very geeky feel, making it
easy to be dismissive. Nevertheless, there is no disputing the rapid growth,
improvement, and emergence of a surrounding ecosystem of ventures make this a
project likely to a have global impact for both internet users and businesses.

Full disclosure: the author is a member of the OpenStreetMap Foundation.
  • http://www.picturetheuk.com James Penman

    Great article, especially the OpenCycleMap info.

  • http://blog.FigmentEngine.com Figment Engine

    The cost of buying map data, and the lack of free access to government data is schocking. OSM is the only option for small teams to build map based systems, and the quality is very good.

    I’ve started building a silverlight front-end of the OSM data and I’m very impressed with the quality and helpfulness of everyone involved:
    http://blog.figmentengine.com/search/label/OpenStreetMap

    Figment Engine

  • Martin

    osm is often much more detailed than google maps. I really hope that apple a) adds osm support to their maps application and b) offers a nice osm-capable nsmapview to us developers.

  • http://socialect.com/user/sthapit sthapit

    i’ve found osm to be mostly perfect except for one piece of the puzzle i haven’t figured out yet – how to create a routable map that i can use with my garmin (or any other gps device). if that was possible then i’d be using osm a lot more.

  • http://www.futuregovconsultancy.com/index.php/2008/11/28/links-for-2008-11-28/ FutureGov » Useful links » links for 2008-11-28

    […] OpenStreetMap grows, spawns ecosystem | TechCrunchUK "Another demonstration of the awesome power of a motivated online mob". When TechCrunch gets interested in this sort of stuff we must be heading for recession… (tags: recession maps opensource openrights) […]

  • http://www.bview.com colin bruce

    Good article Ed – the one interesting additional example of data coverage discrepancy was the one you & the Yahoo Fire Eagle guys mentioned last night: Yahoo using OSM for the Olympics due to lack of coverage from the duopoly.

  • http://mapperz.blogspot.com/ Mapperz

    Well done to OSM, it’s due to the lack of access to public data – locked away by government arms that caused this to be created.
    In years to come, it will be a hard job to keep the data up-to-date rather than collecting it. Mapperz has been following their progress…
    OSM Routing (Germany)
    http://mapperz.blogspot.com/2008/07/open-route-service-using-open-street.html
    OSM (TIGER data import)
    http://mapperz.blogspot.com/2008/02/tiger-tiger-openstreetmap.html
    OSM Exports Maps (PNG,JPEG,PDF,SVG or Postscript)
    http://mapperz.blogspot.com/2008/04/openstreetmap-now-exports-maps.html
    Keep up the good work.

  • http://www.gravitystorm.co.uk/shine/archives/2008/11/28/gmdlondon/ Shine » GMDLondon :: GravityStorm

    […] stuff is coming from the open-source/crowd-sourced/OpenStreetMap world. We just need to keep spreading the word and getting more people […]

  • http://sinfuturoysinunduro.wordpress.com/2008/11/28/opestreetmap-una-mezcla-entre-wikis-y-mapas/ OpenStreetMap: una mezcla entre wikis y mapas « Sin Futuro y Sin Un Duro

    […] Vía TechCrunch. […]

  • http://aidworkerdaily.com Jon Thompson

    Thanks for a great post. I have made comparisons between OSM and Google Maps for Baghdad (http://tinyurl.com/5n6jku), Kabul and Tbilisi (http://tinyurl.com/63r3y3). The differences are amazing. I am confident OSM will prove a game changer for humanitarian aid workers.

  • Ed

    @Jon

    Mikal Maron a great series of posts about OSM being used by the UN in humanitarian / disaster response situations

    http://www.brainoff.com/weblog/

  • http://aidworkerdaily.com/2008/11/28/openstreetmap-grows-spawns-ecosystem/ ‘OpenStreetMap grows, spawns ecosystem’ « Aid Worker Daily

    […] guest author over at TechCrunch UK has written a great article about the rise of OpenStreetMap and businesses like CloudMade and Geofabrik that are sprouting up […]

  • Mill

    Why the government lock up data that belongs to the people?

  • http://yoshy.wordpress.com/2008/11/29/links-for-2008-11-28/ links for 2008-11-28 « 個人的な雑記

    […] OpenStreetMap grows, spawns ecosystem (tags: mapping opensource maps) […]

  • http://makkale.blogcu.com makkale.blogcu.com

    i’ve found osm to be mostly perfect except for one piece of the puzzle i haven’t figured out yet – how to create a routable map that i can use with my garmin (or any other gps device). if that was possible then i’d be using osm a lot more.But you see to go http://www.makkale.blogcu.com

  • http://www.sosyal-im.com/2008/11/29/openstreet-hizla-genisliyor/ Sosyal İm - Teknoloji haberleri » OpenStreet hızla genişliyor » Blog Arşivi » OpenStreet hızla genişliyor

    […] OpenStreetMap, mevcut haritaların taşıdığı hukuki ve teknik sorunlar nedeni ile tamamen özgür bir harita yapmak amacı ile isteyen herkesin katkıları ile oluşturulan bir proje. Yukarıdaki harita projenin ne kadar hızlı ilerlediğini gösteriyor. Projenin portalinde verilen bilgiye göre katılımcılar el GPS cihazları ile gittikleri heryeri not ediyorlar, isimlendiriyorlar ve projeye katkı yapıyorlar. Toplanan data sokak seviyesine kadar detaylandırılıyor. Oluşturulan haritalar özgürce el cihazları, araba navigasyon cihazları veya istenilen herhangi bir ortamda kullanılabiliyor, paylaşılabiliyor. En önemli gelişmelerden birinin Almanya Hamburg‘da elde edildiği belirtiliyor. 300 gönüllü tüm Hamburg haritasının %99.8′ini tamamlamış durumda. http://www.openstreetmap.org adresinden ulaşılabilen haritada maalesef Türkiye kısmı nerede ise hiç ellenmemiş durumda. Bu sivil girişimin bir şekilde Türkiye’de de ele alınması durumunda çok sayıda gönüllü bulunacağından eminim. Kaynak […]

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    […] to TechCrunch for the link: OpenStreetMap grows, spawns ecosystem addthis_url = ‘http%3A%2F%2Fvillagegreen.edublogs.org%2F2008%2F11%2F29%2Fmap-your-world%2F’; […]

  • http://www.geonames.org marc

    osm is certainly an interesting project for maps. Unfortunately, however, the very restrictive share-alike licence makes it impossible to be used for most kind of innovative location based services applications. The osm founder insists that you are not even allowed to use osm data for mashups.
    It is a real pity. Maps are a thing of the past. GPS chips integrated in all kind of devices like cameras, phones etc open the door for far more interesting applications of geographical data than just maps. It is lamentable that the restrictive osm license prevents this with the sole focus on obsolete maps.

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    […] OpenStreetMap, mevcut haritaların taşıdığı hukuki ve teknik sorunlar nedeni ile tamamen özgür bir harita yapmak amacı ile isteyen herkesin katkıları ile oluşturulan bir proje. Yukarıdaki harita projenin ne kadar hızlı ilerlediğini gösteriyor. Projenin portalinde verilen bilgiye göre katılımcılar el GPS cihazları ile gittikleri heryeri not ediyorlar, isimlendiriyorlar ve projeye katkı yapıyorlar. Toplanan data sokak seviyesine kadar detaylandırılıyor. Oluşturulan haritalar özgürce el cihazları, araba navigasyon cihazları veya istenilen herhangi bir ortamda kullanılabiliyor, paylaşılabiliyor. En önemli gelişmelerden birinin Almanya Hamburg‘da elde edildiği belirtiliyor. 300 gönüllü tüm Hamburg haritasının %99.8′ini tamamlamış durumda. http://www.openstreetmap.org adresinden ulaşılabilen haritada maalesef Türkiye kısmı nerede ise hiç ellenmemiş durumda. Bu sivil girişimin bir şekilde Türkiye’de de ele alınması durumunda çok sayıda gönüllü bulunacağından eminim. Kaynak […]

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    […] a comment » OpenStreetMap grows, spawns ecosystem 19 Comments by Guest Author on November 27, […]

  • http://blog.openstreetmap.cl/2008/12/01/openstreetmap-crece-y-genera-ecosistema/ OpenStreetMap Chile » Blog Archive » OpenStreetMap crece y genera ecosistema

    […] Traducido de un artículo por Ed Freyfogle en TechCrunch UK. […]

  • http://mapsatlas.net/?p=136 The Growth of OpenStreetMap | Maps & Atlas

    […] This post on the UK edition of TechCrunch about OpenStreetMap, written by Ed Freyfogle, provides a pretty good overview of what it’s been up to and where it stands vis-à-vis other mapping providers. Here’s an interesting excerpt: “As the biggest commercial geodata providers Tele Atlas and NAVTEQ have been acquired, the intensity of their competition in (and focus on) major markets has increased. As a result in many parts of the developing world OSM is now the most comprehensive online mapping available.” OSM has come a long way since I first heard of it. […]

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  • http://www.systemeD.net/ Richard Fairhurst

    You certainly are allowed to use OSM for mashups. CC-BY-SA has proved an unsuitable licence so the OSM community is promoting a move towards the Open Database Licence.

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