Category Archives: Uncategorized

Image of the Week: Montreuil-le-Gast Mapping Party


A great day mapping for residents of Montreuil-le-Gast ([4])
(Brittany, France). The first time for many of us, but ultimately a
great success!

This is a Featured image, which means that it has been identified as
one of the best examples of OpenStreetMap mapping, or that it provides
a useful illustration of the OpenStreetMap project.

If you know another image of similar quality, you can nominate it at

openstreetmap | style is violence

Scott Morrison posted a good article today in the Wall Street Journal about our hire of Steve Coast, OpenStreetMap‘s founder, and our announcement a week ago that we’d be sharing aerial imagery with OSM.  OpenStreetMap, in case you don’t know, is a sort of Wikipedia for maps, contributed to by all, owned by all.  It’s been up since 2004.

Steve is a wonderfully creative hacker, both idealistic and sardonic.  (Maybe nothing sums the latter up quite so perfectly as his Fake Mayor iPhone app, which spoofs the Foursquare “you’re the mayor” screen and might score you a free cappuccino at some overly-wired coffeeshop.)  In short, he’d be at home as a character in a Cory Doctorow novel.  Hell, he probably is a character in a Cory Doctorow novel.

Like Steve (and Cory) I’m a fan of Creative Commons.  When we released Photosynth in 2008, we had several CC options among the rights structures selectable for uploaded photos, and shortly afterward I prevailed on our program managers and legal people to change the default to Creative Commons Attribution, the most re-mixable variety.  I think it’s important for people to be aware and exercise choice in controlling the rights to their own data.  Most people who post media on the Web in a public forum don’t plan to sell or license those media.  In that case they should be encouraged to share with each other and with the world in a way that prevents the media from ever becoming a corporation’s walled asset.  The CC-Attribution and ShareAlike licenses do that.

Shortly after the Photosynth release, I saw the beautiful “OSM 2008: A Year of Edits” video, an animation showing all of the contributions to OSM over 2008.  It’s a lot better than it sounds.  Actually, I remember it sort of putting a lump in my throat at the time.  Eerily, it reminds me a bit of voltage-sensitive dye neural imaging videos.  As if the Earth is a giant brain wiring itself up.

One of the things that’s exciting to me about OSM is the way it empowers grassroots mapping of places where there’s not enough economic incentive to produce the sort of commercial maps Tele Atlas and Navteq specialize in (and that Bing licenses).  Major OSM projects took place last year in Haiti and in Kibera, one of the biggest slums in the world (home to roughly 1M people).  Even in the US, while the commercial providers have far more precise and complete maps of the areas where people tend to navigate, OSM has a surprising density of small roads and paths in the wilder places, and details of footpaths in parks.

We have a collaboration underway with DigitalGlobe to do one of the largest aerial imagery surveys ever undertaken, covering the US and Western Europe at 30cm resolution.  (The camera we’re using to do this is an impressive technical achievement, developed by our Vexcel team in Graz, Austria.)  By sharing use of the imagery with the OSM community, we hope to enable more OSM goodness.  Maybe one day we can find a way to fund this kind of imaging over less developed parts of the world.

Most of the OSM community has responded very positively, though there are a few of the usual anti-M$FT trolls, like spacecube writing

In my eyes OSM just sold its soul to the devil.

To be clear, OSM’s legal status is like a one-way valve– it’s free and open forever, and any edits made to it from any source become free and open too.  It can be used by anybody, but it can never be “bought” or “owned” by any company.  If a trail over the Rockies can now be positioned with 30cm accuracy by tracing over our aerial imagery, that’s bad for OSM how exactly?

This is quite aside from the question of whether Microsoft can still be considered the devil in the company of its younger brethren– maybe, but at most in an old fashioned, Rolling Stones sort of way.

Kind words from Blaise

Project of the Week: Fire Station

We might not think of them very often. Perhaps a bit of irritation
when we are awakened at night by a siren, or when we pull over to let
emergency vehicles pass. But the fire department provides a vital
service and we are always happy to see them when we need them.

The Project of the Week is to map your local fire station. Learn how to map a fire station for OpenStreetMap on the wiki.

This is your Project of the Week. Make suggestions. Inspire other
mappers. What is it about contributing to OpenStreetMap that
interests you? Postboxes? Bowing alleys? Share your OpenStreetMap
interests by contributing a Project of the Week.

Fire station photo by James Case
is licensed CC-By

OpenStreetMap Gets Noticed by Microsoft, AOL


OpenStreetMap, a sort of Wikipedia of online maps assembled with contributions from thousands of globe-trotting volunteers, has gotten the attention of two big Internet players: Microsoft Corp. and AOL Inc.

The companies recently invested money and contributed aerial imagery to help OpenStreetMap forge new ground. They see the project as a potential alternative or complement to expensive digital maps built by commercial vendors like Nokia Corp.’s Navteq and TomTom International BV’s Tele Atlas, which license data to Microsoft, AOL, Yahoo Inc. and Google Inc. for all or parts of their online maps.

For Microsoft and AOL’s MapQuest unit, OpenStreetMap presents an opportunity to build new local services or develop new business models while skirting the costs and terms associated with licensed data from the commercial providers. The two companies are estimated to pay Navteq tens of millions of dollars a year for its map data.

“As location becomes an important element in online services, it’s really critical that companies have the flexibility to build the services that consumers want without the constraints of licensing agreements,” said MapQuest general manager Christian Dwyer.

Google last year began moving away from commercial vendors by rolling out a U.S. based map built with government data, satellite and aerial imagery, and data collected by its Street View vehicles. A company spokesperson says Google’s having control of its own maps enables it to do frequent updates and make them available whenever and wherever users need them—online, on mobile devices, or in the car.

“Google has tremendous business flexibility in how they use their map,” says digital mapping consultant Marc Prioleau. “The others have to work with a third-party vendor to make changes to the maps or try new business models.”

OpenStreetMap, meanwhile, is a free map of the world that is being built with government data and supplemented by an army of 300,000 volunteers who use GPS technology to trace and upload their routes to OpenStreetMap’s website.

These community mappers can also use programming tools on the website to fill in features like bicycle paths, traffic restrictions, restaurants and shops, historic sites and sporting venues.

Volunteers so far seem to have mixed reactions to the idea of their contributions being used for commercial purposes. Samat Jain, an IT consultant in New Mexico who contributes to OpenStreetMap, says many members of the open-source community are concerned that Microsoft and AOL might steer the project in the wrong direction as they seek to commercialize the maps, but he personally supports their involvement because they will help push his contributions out to a broader audience.

OpenStreetMap founder Steve Coast, a computer developer and physics dropout, founded his nonprofit project in 2004 after recognizing that unlike open-source software and community encyclopedias, there was no free mapping data available to computer programmers. “Mapping is one of the few things that gets you, as a hacker, out into the streets doing physical things,” says Mr. Coast, who recently joined Microsoft as a map architect.

Mr. Coast acknowledges that the OpenStreetMap project has a long way to go, but he argues that maps of some regions, like the U.K and Germany, are comparable, if not more detailed, to those provided by Navteq and Tele Atlas.

The project’s U.S. map, by contrast, still lags. OpenStreetMap used freely available government data to lay out a basic map grid for the entire country and is now relying on community mappers to fill in the details. So far, those mappers have focused on major urban areas like New York City, Houston and San Francisco.

Tiffany Treacy, a senior vice president at Navteq, wouldn’t comment directly on OpenStreetMap, but claims her company can provide the consistency and level of accuracy that consumers demand in their maps.

Patrick McDevitt, vice president of community mapping for Tom Tom, says that while community maps work for some applications, “those that require consistent high quality, accuracy and extensive coverage will need quality-assured and tested products.”

OpenStreetMap received a major boost this year when MapQuest began rolling out maps of several European countries, including the Netherlands and Switzerland, based on the project’s mapping data. AOL also invested $1 million to help developers build tools that make it easier for mappers to contribute to these maps.

MaqQuest’s Mr. Dwyer says the goal is to eventually switch to OpenStreetMap for the entire world, but he estimates it will take three to five years to make that vision a reality.

Microsoft followed MapQuest’s lead last month when it hired Mr. Coast and announced it would provide high resolution aerial imagery to OpenStreetMap, a step that will help volunteers fill in gaps in the map by tracing streets and other features from the images.

Blaise Aguera y Arcas, architect of Bing Maps at Microsoft, says he sees OpenStreetMap as a source of mapping data that is complementary to the sets provided by Navteq, which powers Bing Maps.

Mr. Agueras y Arcas also notes that commercial mapping providers are focused on the U.S. and European markets, while OSM volunteers have in some cases built highly detailed maps in South America and Asia.

“We have no plans to drop our relationship with Navteq,” he says. But “it would be silly not to provide easy ways for users to use OpenStreetMap in areas in which OpenStreetMap has a lot to offer.”

Write to Scott Morrison at


Weekly OSM Summary #4

11/29/2010 – 12/05/2010

Every week a lot of things are happening in the OpenStreetMap (OSM) world. It can be hard to keep track of all the different communication channels and don’t miss any important news. That’s why we’ve created a short summary of all the news here. Enjoy!

  • Potlatch2 is now available at, woha!
  • Since last Tuesday you can find the details on how to use the Bing-imagery here. More information about Bing and about their imagery-coverage.
  • Aerial imagery can be shifted from its origin position. If you forget to correct this in your editor, it can cause problems when editing OSM data. To solve this problem there is a plan to create a central system for automatic correction of this offset.
  • At the OpenStreetMap-Foundation blog, Richard Weait wrote a post about the activities of some OSM working groups.
  • “A Night at the Office” – Frederik Ramm describes in a blog post how the OSM extracts for their Geofabrik download server are made, using OSM tools.
  • Adena Schutzberg wrote some interesting thoughts: “My Take on Coast Going to Microsoft” here.
  • Eric Rodenbeck from Stamen Design took a look at the different categories of scans that get uploaded at Walking Papers. Some of them look like small artwork.
  • Oliver Kühn has interviewed Randy Meech from MapQuest about their motivation and commitment to OpenStreetMap.
  • Martijn van Exel has created a map that shows the acquisition date of the Bing-imagery for a certain area. Learn more about it here.
  • New version of the OpenLinkMap is online!
  • A new hiking-map for the Netherlands is available here.
  • Skobbler has announced a “new” bug-tool (called MapDust). It’s created out of their feedback-channel in the Skobbler app. You can find some more information in the OSM Wiki.
  • MapQuest has now open.MapQuest-websites for Switzerland and the Netherlands too, read their blog announcement here.
  • For the people who want to have maps everywhere: Get OSM maps printed on blankets.

For more news, especially regarding new tags and wiki pages, you can check-out the community-updates over here.

Authors: PascalJonas & Dennis.
We missed something? You want to help us collecting the news for next week’s issue? 
You can contact us via mail or Twitter.


Image of the Week: Animation of aerial imagery tracing


OSM contributor Findvej sends this animation of an editing session in Denmark.

Just two hours of work in JOSM with the new Bing layer in a location
(Hjerting, Esbjerg, Denmark) with low coverage. All street names have
been added as well, from the updated KMS dataset.

Screenshots were taken about every five minutes and compiled to animated gif.

View the image full size to see the animation.

This is a Featured image, which means that it has been identified as
one of the best examples of OpenStreetMap mapping, or that it provides
a useful illustration of the OpenStreetMap project.

If you know another image of similar quality, you can nominate it at

Project of the Week: Railway station

They are a point in a daily commute of countless people. Utilitarian,
they must provide for efficient movement of people in crowds.
Seemingly vacant at one minute and then teeming the next, with the
hustle and bustle of those determined to get from here to there. The
ordinary and repetitious trip of a commuter can lead to blank faces,
seeming drones programmed to catch the 7:15 without interaction with
others, without emotion.

Yet they have also been the scene of emotional hellos and goodbyes. A
backdrop to tears and embraces, an important goal in a departure or a

The Project of the Week is to map your local train station, bus depot,
or other public transit center. Learn more about this Project of the
Week on the OpenStreetMap wiki:

This is your Project of the Week. Make suggestions. Inspire other
mappers. What is it about contributing to OpenStreetMap that
interests you? Postboxes? Bowing alleys? Share your OpenStreetMap
interests by contributing a Project of the Month.
Goodbye train photo by Till Krech
is licensed CC-By

Microsoft Imagery details

“Microsoft is pleased to announce the royalty-free use of the Bing Maps Imagery Editor API, allowing the Open Street Map community to use Bing Maps imagery via the API as a backdrop to your OSM map editors.

Bing Maps imagery must be used in accordance with the API Terms and Conditions [see PDF below] – although this is not legal binding advice, and you are encouraged to read the TOU itself, in sum the TOU says: you are only granted rights to use the aerial imagery, you must use the imagery as presented in the API, you cannot modify or edit the imagery, including the copyright and credit notices; you cannot create permanent, offline copies of the imagery, all of your updates to OSM arising out of the application must be shared with OSM, and the OSM map editor must be free to end users.”


If you have a question, I’m at or you can chat to people live at Richard Fairhurst and others have already been working on the code to use this stuff with potlatch etc. You should see it go live soon!