We’re on a road to everywhere

This post was sparked off by some very dubious reporting of OpenStreetMap plus continued misunderstanding about what OpenStreetMap actually “maps” by some of the public at large. So its time to set the records straight, well for today anyway, tomorrow we will have slain another dragon and the world will be an even better place, such is the march of OSM progress.

The point is that there is barely time to draw breath for a moment before OpenStreetMap as we, and therefore you, knew it, has changed beyond all recognition. Even to those of us who have been intensely involved with or contributing to the project on an hour by hour, minute by minute level, it is still difficult to comprehend the scale and impact of what is being achieved daily.

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 openstreetmap.ca, .ch, .cl, .de, .fr, .it, .jp, .nl, .se, .org.za and that’s probably missing a few that are on the way.

OpenStreetMap really is on the road to everywhere and with everyone’s help it will produce a better map than what’s out there anywhere now and a lot lot sooner than you’d think.

7 thoughts on “We’re on a road to everywhere

  1. nroets

    All these “setting the record straight”, “missing the point”, and “why openstreetmap is not …” posts are making me thing OSM is a political party.

    If you’re going to grow faster than Moore’s law, you’ll have to fix the things that doesn’t scale well. For example the GPX import.

  2. juliocosta

    Thank you for including us in the list of international OpenStreetMap sites.

    Best Regards,

    Julio Costa
    OpenStreetMap Chile

  3. Harry Wood

    nroets re: GPX import. This was a temporary server problem and backlog created by this (all cleared up now), but it’s true that this is a scalability weakpoint. It has been identified already as a high priority development task to improve GPX uploads. Hopefully someone will take on this task (all volunteers remember!) Another point about GPX uploads: This feature is not as important if you’re doing your editing via JOSM. It’s worth trying out this editor if you haven’t already. It allows you to load in your local GPX files, without waiting for them to be processed on the server.

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