Open Street Map

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= a free editable map of the whole world



OpenStreetMap allows you to view, edit and use geographical data in a collaborative way from anywhere on Earth.

"OpenStreetMap is the free and open alternative to commercial providers - where users collect GPS tracks and additional information and make that into a high-quality map. The Economist concluded an article about the aforementioned geodata big guns saying: "In time, such [OpenStreetMap] contributions could create a detailed, free map of the world. If so, TomTom's and Nokia's acquisitions would look very overpriced." (


"The project was started by CloudMade co-Founder Steve Coast in 2004. Like many great inventions, the idea of OpenStreetMap grew from Steve’s personal desire to have a detailed map of his local area that he could use in any way. He wanted a map he could hack on, so he started making his own map and quickly realized that a community of volunteer mappers could create a map that was far richer and far more relevant to people’s needs than maps created by traditional mapping companies." (



Joe Morrison:

"The open secret Jennings filled me in on is that OpenStreetMap (OSM) is now at the center of an unholy alliance of the world’s largest and wealthiest technology companies. The most valuable companies in the world are treating OSM as critical infrastructure for some of the most-used software ever written. The four companies in the inner circle— Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft— have a combined market capitalization of over six trillion dollars. In almost every other setting, they are mortal enemies fighting expensive digital wars of attrition. Yet they now find themselves eagerly investing in and collaborating on OSM at an unprecedented scale (more on the scale later).

What likely started as a conversation in a British pub between grad students in 2004 has spiraled out of control into an invaluable, strategic, voluntarily-maintained data asset the wealthiest companies in the world can’t afford to replicate." (


From, August 2008:

"Earlier this week the project surpassed 50,000 registered users with over 5,000 actively contributing data each month. Historically the contributor base has doubled every 5 months. That means there will be around 50,000 adding data monthly by the end of 2009. That’s a ten fold increase from today.

Right now on each and every day, 25,000km of roads gets added to the OpenStreetMap database, on the historical trend that will be over 200,000km per day by the end of 2009. And that doesn’t include all the other data that makes OpenStreetMap the richest dataset available online. As Etienne succinctly put it in a response to one commentator.

“OpenStreetMap maps a lot more than roads. All the things you mention: roads, paths, buildings, heights, pylons, fences … AND … post boxes, pubs, airfields, canals, rock climbing routes, shipwrecks, lighthouses, ski runs, whitewater rapids, universities, toucan crossings, coffeeshops (the dutch kind), trees, fields, toilets, speed cameras, toll booths, recycling points and a whole lot more.”

Finally its worth saying a word or two about the bigger picture. Until very recently we talked about OpenStreetMap being a global project but the reality was that outside of Europe and the TIGER-Line fed USA the pockets of OpenStreetMap activity were sporadic, often just one contributor in each place, or the devoted work of one or two burning the midnight oil tracing over the Yahoo! imagery layer in far flung places. Even that’s changing though. The OpenStreetMap community itself is growing and one of the best examples of that is the proliferation of national websites acting as local language portals for the project. Already there is, .ch, .cl, .de, .fr, .it, .jp, .nl, .se, and that’s probably missing a few that are on the way." (


  • While Open Street Map has been used in humanitarian crises before, the super typhoon Haiyan is the first time the Red Cross has coordinated its use and the volunteer effort around it.


More Information

  1. One year of edits visualization video at
  2. Video presentation: the history, present and future of OpenStreetMap, at
  3. Haklay, M. and P. Weber (2008). “OpenStreetMap: User-Generated Street Maps.” Pervasive Computing, IEEE 7(4): 12-18.