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Video Why We Need OpenStreetMap (Video) 118

This video is a conversation between Slashdot's Timothy Lord and informal OpenStreetMap spokesman Serge Wroclawski. Serge stresses the point that OpenStreetMap isn't a mapping application, but consists of the data behind mapping applications; that there are many apps that use OpenStreetMap data; and that you are free to use OpenStreetMap as the data engine behind a map-based application. You are also welcome, even encouraged, to contribute, and you may want to check out the OpenStreetMap Foundation, which is "an international not-for-profit organization supporting, but not controlling, the OpenStreetMap Project." Now comes the question: Do you really want Google or MapQuest or another commercial (or government) entity to know where you are and where you're going? With OpenStreetMap you can download maps of your area, country or even the whole world and keep your travels confidential. You can also help create accurate maps of the areas you know best, including points of interest chosen by actual users like you, not because they paid to have their names on a commercially-produced map. A last thought: In addition to watching Serge in the video, you might want to read an article Serge wrote for his blog that The Guardian picked up about the need for OpenStreetMap. The 195+ comments attached to the article are interesting, too.

Timothy Lord:Serge, last week you wrote an article that got quite a bit of play about why the world needs OpenStreetMap. What did that article come out of? What’s the background, and why does the world need OpenStreetMap?

Serge Wroclawski:Well, I wrote this blog post about three weeks ago after meeting with an old family friend and answering the same question over and over which is: “Why do we need OpenStreetMap where there are all these providers, especially Google Maps?” The question that I would get is: “Why do we need OpenStreetMap when we’ve got Google Map?” “Why do I need OpenStreetMap when there is TomTom or any of those other products?” Normally in the OpenStreetMap community, we answer this by talking about the pragmatic benefits of OpenStreetMap. But I thought it was a good time to really talk about the ethical issues and the personal privacy issues associated with these mapping providers and contrast them with OpenStreetMap.

Tim:Give some examples of where there is a privacy issue that OpenStreetMap becomes a superior alternative for someone who is going to plan a route or mark a location—what are some examples of that?

Serge:Sure, so anytime you use—and I am just going to use Google as an example—anytime you use Google Maps you are giving Google information about where you are, where you want to go. When you use Google on the phone, the Google Maps on the phone, it knows exactly where you are and knows what speed you are traveling for example—you give all that information away. With OpenStreetMap you can download all of the map data for where you are, where you are going beforehand and then use that route. So you don’t have to give any external provider any information, not even OpenStreetMap.

Tim:So when you create a mapped point on OpenStreetMap you are revealing a certain amount of information but it is not in the same way?

Serge:Well, you don’t have to actually give OpenStreetMap any information about where you are going. You can just download all that data onto your phone, or onto your computer, display that data and work on it locally. As opposed to a provider where they could store all the data themselves.

Tim:Serge, between a provider like Google Maps or another commercial provider, all the information in OpenStreetMaps is provided by public sources, by participants. How does the data stack up right now? What is the criticalmass? Is it as usable as Google Maps, or more so, what is the depth of the data that you have for the actual mapping information?

Serge:That is a great question, and it greatly depends on where you are. So if you are in a country like Germany the OpenStreetMap data is far superior to what you are going to get from another commercial mapping provider. If you are in a country like the UK it is roughly on par or slightly better. If you are in a country like Haiti, OpenStreetMap is the absolute best provider of mapping data. If you are in the United States, we have a little bit of work to do but depending on the location, we are slowly coming on par.

Tim:Now the tools that someone uses to add map data, how at best are they right now? Is it easy for someone to take a phone and just walk around, and say, “Here’s my street” and contribute to the database. How does someone know what information is needed?

Serge:That’s a great question.The way that someone would know what was needed is they would look at a display on their phone, or tablet or computer and they would see that ‘Gee, this data here is either missing or it is wrong,’ and they could absolutely use a phone to collect that data and either upload it when they get home. Or there are mapping applications that work directly on the phone. Or they can collect that data with a GPS, we have paper maps that you can draw on and scan into OpenStreetMap. So there are a variety of methods to collect that data from users.

Tim:You mentioned that one of the places where the OpenStreetMap data is actually richer than the commercial providers is a place like Haiti. So in a poor country like that, what are the opportunities to take part—how are the actual map data points added there? Is it mostly by NGOs, is it by volunteers who are on the site for that reason? How does that work? How do you get all the information?

Serge:Well, the way that works is that in 2010, the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, I believe, thousands of volunteer mappers from around the world came together to map the damage that was caused. Since then, an organization has grown called the Humanitarian Open Street Map team. And Humanitarian Open Street Map coordinates mapping efforts in various developing nations. They do all the ground mapping there with locals, and they also encourage people from all around the world to contribute to the map using public data resources.

Tim:And the maps they create, it sounds like are much more useful than whatever is on hand, owned by the Government entities that are already on the street.

Serge:That’s right. We’ve been complimented by organizations such as the Red Cross, the United Nations and others for the depth and how current our maps are. So our maps are more detailed, more accurate, and just generally better. Not only for their accuracy and depth but also you can download an OpenStreetMap map, put it on a GPS that doesn’t have the internet connectivity, and walk around with it. That’s not something that you can do typically with these other mapping providers.

Tim:Now on the other end of the spectrum, you are sitting right now in one of the most heavily populated, heavily dense, and heavily mapped areas in the entire world. What happens with a place like Manhattan when it comes to a project like OpenStreetMap? What’s the worth and what’s the use of mapping a place that has had people living on it for so long and in such close proximity? What do you get out of OpenStreetMap in New York?

Serge:Well there are two answers to your questions. The first is that on a personal level, yes, people have been mapping here, and there are very accurate detailed maps from other mapping providers, but there is no one cohesive pre map resource of the city that includes all the street data, all of the building data, all of the addresses, all of the shops, everything at once. Nothing exists like that other than OpenStreetMap.

So we are really the only mapping resource of that kind even in a place like New York City. I also want to add that in a place like New York City, we have a ton of change—not only do we have shops opening and closing, we have buildings that come down, new buildings are constructed, and we have a lot of road work that is being done especially as the city becomes more bike friendly.

That data is not updated on other maps as quickly as it can be on OpenStreetMap. When the city put in a bike lane on my street, I could add that data, and in fact, I did, on just that day. So I looked down, saw that someone in the city had added a bike line, and that bike line was on OpenStreetMap in just a few minutes. That’s not what any other mapping provider can do at this time. The advantage for a commercial entity is that they can have access to this data completely free.

And that is a really big advantage in a market where these giant entities whether they be corporations or governments, have typically had monopoly over this data. So it reduces the barrier of entry for a company that would like to display maps on their website, or use maps in their applications. Whatever they want to do, that barrier goes from maybe from tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars down to zero.

Tim:Now that raises a question that I think people ask often about Wikipedia which is essentially: What’s in it for you, when businesses can use and repurpose this kind of information?How do they bring enough to the OpenStreetMap project in so doing to make it worth, that people like you to keep contributing?

Serge:Well, we have several companies that are contributing to OpenStreetMap directly. We have companies that map directly. In OpenStreetMap we have companies that will negotiate with governments to try to get us access to data resources. We have companies that will support us financially. So these companies have a role in it, to make sure that this resource is available to everyone. It is essentially the open source model but applied to mapping data.

Tim:Now one thing too, when it comes to things that are crowdsourced is that lots of people can contribute data.Sometimes there is going to be disagreement, whether it is pure mistake or difference of opinion. So what happens when someone labels the same point in a different way or wants to overwrite someone else’s description?

Serge:Well, I wrote a blog post on this just about a week ago actually, where I discussed the issues of edit wars in OpenStreetMap. The fact of the matter is that edit wars are very uncommon in OpenStreetMap unlike in a place like Wikipedia where they are extremely common. In OpenStreetMap, the measure of quality is the measure of truth and accuracy. If I can go down the ground, and look at a feature and see: Is that store here? Is there a building here?

Is that address correct?-there is very little to dispute. Somebody else might disagree that it is a building, but if it is clearly a building then is really no argument.So we don’t typically have those kinds of issues of edit wars. We do have new people who make mistakes, and we do correct them. People like myself and others monitor areas, and encourage new users to correct their edits when necessary. And we occasionally have vandals, and vandals are usually dealt with pretty quickly by enthusiastic members of the community who see their work being damaged, and they step in and correct it.

Tim:One thing I am curious about as OpenStreetMap which is now in its tenth year, has obviously gone from 0 data points 11 years ago, I guess, to enough that you can now navigate large parts of the world with it. What about the depth of the data that is contained on those maps, now that you can navigate from place to place in huge stretches of the world? Google Maps has added things like three-dimensional pictures of buildings and overlays. In OpenStreetMap, do you anticipate incorporating other sources of information, things like the current temperature, can you look at a weather map and overlay it on your OpenStreetMap based map?

Serge:Well, there are a couple of issues. I want to correct you just on one small point which is that OpenStreetMap is coming up to its tenth anniversary this year—we are currently nine years old. But to your larger question about adding external data sets to OpenStreetMaps such as temperature, that is absolutely possible. OpenStreetMap allows you to download the data and mix it in with other data sets.

So it would certainly be possible and not very difficult at all, to take OpenStreetMap and project a weather map on top of it. Or to take OpenStreetMap and to use it as part of your research—it is very easy. We want it to be easy to do such things. That’s why OpenStreetMap allows you to download the raw geographic information, and not just access it as a map. A common misconception about OpenStreetMap is that we are not just a visual map like Google Maps. We are actually a full geographic data set which allows you to analyze each element of the map. So you can take a road and look at its component parts, take a building apart, and see how it is constructed in terms of the map.

To your question about 3-D mapping and other features, we often get questions about: Can we do 3-D maps? Can we do StreetView or more advanced things, or more interesting, I shouldn’t say interesting but certainly more fancy products? Can you build it over OpenStreetMap? OpenStreetMap is currently designed for 2-D maps. We’ve found that 2-D maps are easy to work with and get you the data, but we have been adding 3-D features. So for example, we can say in OpenStreetMap a building is this tall. Or a part ofthe building is this tall. Or this building has so many floors. Through that, you can construct 3-D maps.

There are people who had taken OpenStreetMap data and added it to for example, flight simulators. And they are creating 3-D maps out of OpenStreetMap data. You can also take external data sets like elevation, and construct more accurate representations of the earth based on OpenStreetMap 2-D data set along with the topology data.

Now as to questions about things like is OpenStreetMap something like OpenStreet view? We’ve had a couple of projects based on OpenStreetMap that have tried that. It is something that I think there is a lot of interest in. There are some technical hurdles that we need to overcome. But I do believe that if not OpenStreetMap, you will see a project like OpenStreetMap going forward that will have that.

Tim:The way that OpenStreetMap is used right now, as you say, there is this huge depth of data points that are available, but one thing I found is thatI put an OpenStreetMap in one of the many viewers that are available on my phone, and I found that it wasn’t all that satisfying. What sort of recommendations do you have if people want to use OpenStreetMap for purposes of actual day-to-day navigation—are there any tools that you recommend to people?

Serge: In regard to mobile applications, OpenStreetMap doesn’t officially create any mobile applications for displaying or navigating.What we have is we provide the geographic data set, and we allow third parties to create applications based on that. Some of those applications are proprietary. Some of those applications are free and open source. There is a variety depending on the platform you are using. Whether you are using iPhone or Android or Windows Phone there are a variety of mapping applications and a variety of navigation apps. I don’t want to make any particular recommendations because new ones come out all the time, and they are each very good at one particular thing. So my recommendation is to ask around, there are plenty of questions on Help Desk, and look at our Wiki at for recommendations, and try a few out, and see which one you like.

Tim:Well, Serge, what are you using? What is your typical as a power user what sort of tools do you use to interface with the project yourself?

Serge:I personally have an Android phone so I use OsmAnd for navigation. It does offline maps, so I can download a city or even a whole country at once, and use it for navigation. It even does voice navigation so it will tell you when to turn. For mapping I use a variety of applications—Jeez, I can’t remember the name of it now—but I use a variety of mapping applications for actual data collection. I use some that to collect tracks, I use photos, and I use my GPS, and I combine all that when I am actually out on the street mapping.

Tim:It seems like that there is a lot in common, it seems to me, with amateur radio, in that you can take part just by gathering some points and taking part even if you are not contributing anything significant, that is to say, ona world global scale, to adding to the data set. If people want to look at it that way, and start actually adding their own data points, where would you first send them?

Serge:So the first thing I would do if I were starting up an OpenStreetMap is I would start just by zooming into where I live, or where I work, and start looking for things that I know are there. So for example, if my favorite restaurant isn’t on OpenStreetMap I would add it. If a road doesn’t look quite right, or there is a road that’s missing, I would add that. If somebody wants something a little more structured there are applications that run on top, or that use OpenStreetMap data such as MapRoulette which is a program, it is a website that lets you look at the map, and it gives you a problem to solve, some kind of geographic issue or error in the map, you can correct that, and just keep playing and see how many of these things you can fix.

For those starting on OpenStreetMap for the first time, the way I would do it is, I would start by zooming into the area that I live or work, seeing if there was anything wrong with the map, so correcting any mistakes, but also adding anything that’s missing. So if there are stores that are missing that I frequent, restaurants, if there is a bike trail that’s missing, or even if there’s a road missing, I would start by adding that in. It is filling out features that might not be there in OpenStreetMap. We are looking for things that might be wrong, and need correcting.

If I wanted something a little more structured, there are websites like which provide you with an OpenStreet land map and show you various errors or problems or questions about the map that you can try to edit; gradually you get more and more challenges, and you fix the map one problem at a time. That’s fun for an afternoon, but I really recommend that people go outside, collect data with their phone, collect data with their GPS, and really learn about the area they live in and contribute to OpenStreetMap directly by map survey.

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Why We Need OpenStreetMap (Video)

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  • Sounds good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @05:57PM (#46104285)

    Anything that knocks Google (and Apple) down a peg or ten is good in my book.

    • Re:Sounds good (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @06:28PM (#46104601)


      Google scares me. It's getting more and more pervasive - and invasive.

      A while ago, I installed Waze on my Android device as an alternative navigation app to avoid using Google Maps, because I don't want Google to know where I'm going (or where I am, or how fast I drive, or anything at all about me.)

      Guess what? Waze has been purchased by Google []. It's sickening. Google is silently cornering us.

      I'm at a point where, whenever I install a new app or use a new PC application, I check whether Google owns the company that makes it, or whether it made it, or whether for one reason or another, Google has a vested interest in it. I used to do that with Microsoft, now Google has joined them in my list of evil-companies-to-avoid-at-all-cost. Only with Google, it's getting really, really tough because they're f*ing everywhere...

      • Good, but I'd argue that MS and google are just one of a few companies that are too big to be trusted. Monsanto, for example, is more blatantly evil. They are coming close to a monopoly on corn and soybeans (source []). You can live without an electronic map with very little trouble. I suspect Monsanto is not on your list, as eating all organic food that doesn't stem from corn or soybeans is pretty expensive.

        Then again, I suppose Monsanto has grown past the point where consumer action is going to do a
        • Then again, I suppose Monsanto has grown past the point where consumer action is going to do anything ever.

          Truly the monopolist's dream. Buy the government [], and be big enough to be impossible to avoid.

      • I'm not a shill, I just think your logic is flawed.

        Google has joined them in my list of evil-companies-to-avoid-at-all-cost. Only with Google, it's getting really, really tough because they're f*ing everywhere...

        So because they are large makes them evil? Yes, they have a lot of products some of which are bought and they make them easy to use together with optional integration which honestly makes them easier to use. Yes, they do scrap together information about you is to send you relevant adverts because that is their ENTIRE business model!

        Everything I've seen indicates that Google has a very different MO from your typical business.

        - Their business is advertiseme

        • by Vik1ng ( 3500777 )

          and you aren't forced to use or even have them.

          The problem is that they are building small almost monopolies, which basically forces you to use their services, especially if you are on the business side of the whole thing and want to be found online.

        • So because they are large makes them evil?

          No. That just makes them powerful. There are concerns that need to be addressed when benign institutions gain power. Like that bank, that used to take care of your money until they became too big to fail. Remember that one? It was funny. I still can't stop laughing while I fill in my taxes.

          • So because they are large makes them evil?

            No. That just makes them powerful. There are concerns that need to be addressed when benign institutions gain power. Like that bank, that used to take care of your money until they became too big to fail. Remember that one? It was funny. I still can't stop laughing while I fill in my taxes.

            if google when down in flames, the fallout would be minimal. people would take their data leave and then use different services and programs, it's that simple. google is competing in many markets but they dont have a monopoly on any of them because they are rarely the first to the market. they succeed in some and fail in others.

            search: google/yahoo/bing/duckduckgo
            browser: chrome/internet explorer/mozilla/firefox/Safari
            social: google+/facebook/myspace/twitter/etc
            email: gmail/hotmail/yahoo mail/a zillion o

        • - Their business is advertisement but they dont assault you with intrusive ads and they dont try to stop programs like AdBlock which completely undermines their business model. Hell, they even make it easy to install in Chrome's app store.

          They have been convicted or are in court in multiple places for deliberatily going around users' privacy settings in Safari and Internet Explorer.

          • They have been convicted or are in court in multiple places for deliberatily going around users' privacy settings in Safari and Internet Explorer.

            if you read up on why it happened, it was to "to ensure things like the Google+ '+1' buttons that appear on third-party sites still work" which isn't some sinister plot to grab every bit of information from you. read about the when/how/why and you make understand it better: []

            it's easy to hype things to make them sound like they were trying to steal your first born child (sensationalism) but seriously, it was harmless. they fixed it up so that stuff still works without bypas

      • by Mirar ( 264502 )

        You can't say you were surprised by that. Waze from the start up seemed to be created as a data collection tool without any possible point of profit other than being sold to another bigger company that were interested in the data.

        What I would like to see is a Waze-like collection of data that's anonymized but open. That is, contain speeds for roads for various hours, keep data about accidents, construction and roadblocks, and reports problems to OSM in the back.

    • I agree about Waze. I got it as an alternative to Google and really liked it... then Google snarfed it up. (I am pretty sure "snarf" is the right word.)

      The "problem" with OpenStreetMap is that it needs software wrapped around it to be very useful. That's kind of how Waze worked, but I don't think it used OpenStreetMap.

      If we could get a good Open Source program to do what Waze did, more or less, using OpenStreetMap, we'd be in a good place. Waze proved that it is technically feasible. We'd just have to
      • Re:Sounds good (Score:5, Interesting)

        by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) * on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @07:10PM (#46105007)

        If you want something that does what Waze does -- or anything that shares data between users -- what you want is a protocol, not a program.

        In my opinion, the single biggest problem with the Internet today is that things like Facebook and Twitter were implemented as programs and not protocols.

        • "If you want something that does what Waze does -- or anything that shares data between users -- what you want is a protocol, not a program."

          I wasn't referring to the communication part of Waze, which I did not use anyway. I was referring to the mapping and navigation functions.

          Despite its name, OpenStreetMap is just data. If you want to draw a map with that data, you need software to do it. (Unless you feel like drawing it manually using that data.)

          OsmAnd is a program that does this, but it is strangely limited and it isn't free to use all the features or download more than a few maps.

          • by pjt33 ( 739471 )

            I use OSM data with Locus Pro. (I now have the paid version, but I used the free one for a year or more). I don't use the navigation though, and I think that requires connection to some online service.

            • Giving it a try. There seems to be more "open" mapping software now than when I last checked. Most of it is still proprietary though.
          • by Askmum ( 1038780 )
            Programs that work with OSM data are abundant. True, some better than others. There are nice pages in the OSM wiki about various mobile OS'es, like Android [] or iOS [] which list all applications available for those platforms (at least all applications that someone put the effort in to make a OSM wiki page for it and add the correct tags).
            For simple navigation, there is a choice of pickings. If you want realtime data like Waze or TomTom gives, I don't know if that's available yet, but the biggest problem with t
          • by gr8dude ( 832945 )

            > but it is strangely limited and it isn't free to use all the features or download more than a few maps.

            If you download it via F-Droid, then there are no limitations.

            Even prior to figuring that out, the limitations of the version distributed via Google Play were not a problem for me - I found them reasonable.

            • I am trying the F-Droid version, and indeed it seems to lack the restrictions of the Google Play version.

              On the other hand, it doesn't find addresses worth a crap, and so far I haven't figured out how to make the voice announce U.S. units rather than km. I have it set to display U.S. units on the map, but the voice has kept giving me kilometers.
      • by gd2shoe ( 747932 )

        I agree about Waze. I got it as an alternative to Google and really liked it... then Google snarfed it up. (I am pretty sure "snarf" is the right word.)

        You're right. define:snarf []

        verb informal
        verb: snarf; 3rd person present: snarfs; past tense: snarfed; past participle: snarfed; gerund or present participle: snarfing
        1. eat or drink quickly or greedily.
        "they snarfed up frozen yogurt"

        (Pardon the pun.)

    • Jesus fucking christ! Timothy can not edit, can not ask questions and has internet from the 90's! It was hard to watch.
  • OpenStreetMap is OK but is really just a pale imitation of Googol maps. In their attempt to justify OpenStreetMap they completely miss the point:

    First they say:

    in the 1800s clocks existed, but every town had its own time, "local time"

    But then try to justify the need for OpenStreetMap by saying:

    In terms of display (rendering), each person or company who creates a map is free to render it how they like

    So now you're back to the same problem. But instead of clocks being different from one town to another, it's maps.

    The other problem is:

    OpenStreetMap is a wiki-like map that anyone in the world can edit. If a store is missing from the map, it can be added in by a store owner or even a customer.

    In other words, if OppenStreetMap were to replace Googol maps in popularity, we can look forward to Wikipedia-like edit and delete wars.

    • Re:It's OK (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Roblimo ( 357 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @06:20PM (#46104513) Homepage Journal

      I consider "render it how they like" the equivalent of freedom to choose your own clock face and size rather than the time the clock displays.


    • by pjt33 ( 739471 )

      It's not as good as Google Maps in the things Google Maps is really strong in, but it has different strengths. Take offline mapping: the Google Maps application on Android lets you store a few megabytes of map data for offline use. I have the full OpenStreetMap data for four countries stored for offline use with Locus Pro, taking up about 1.3GB on the SD card.

      • It's not as good as Google Maps in the things Google Maps is really strong in,

        Like telling you where Adolf Hitler Platz is?

        Take the A701 road south from Danané (Côte d'Ivoire).

        Google doesn't show the town of Zouan Hounien. Many smaller places are shown.

        Odd given that it's a prefecture.

        In fact it looks like Google has lost track of many towns in the area, often administratively important ones.

        They all show up in OpenStreetMap.

    • by fatphil ( 181876 )
      No similarity at all.

      When it came to local time, you had to conform to it. Time is a purely abstract quantity which can be labelled arbitrarily, there is no surefire way of knowing if a time given to you with the assertion "this is now" is right or wrong.
      However, you have freedom over which application you wish to render your map data. If you consistently chose a program which renders things in a way which is not in your interest, then perhaps OSM is not the problem, but you yourself are. Nobody is imposing
    • I can't speak to the edit/delete wars issue, because I don't know the rules under which it operates.

      But without resorting to the use of hugely expensive satellite imagery, and official sources, and mapping that to known points, openstreetmaps misses a lot of the less traveled roads, even in countries like the US where everyone is carrying a cell phone with GPS turned on. Look into south america and the quality drops off quite a bit.

      Enthusiasts may run mapping apps and contribute, but until they can get a l

    • Re:It's OK (Score:5, Informative)

      by tpstigers ( 1075021 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @06:46PM (#46104757)

      You obviously know nothing about maps or data. GMaps is a mapping product. OSM is a data storehouse. It has a minimal map structure to facilitate editing data. The idea behind OSM is to provide data which we can freely use to make our own maps. If you need to see examples of pretty maps made with OSM data, just look at Mapbox (

  • The other guys have that.

  • OpenStreetMap Server (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sanosuke001 ( 640243 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @06:10PM (#46104403)
    I actually pushed to add OpenStreetMap tile support to our geo-spatial stuff at work. I even went and made a VM with the world database and pre-compiled metatiles so I wouldn't hammer their official servers. It's definitely nice to have imagery (even if it isn't satellite) even if you're on a standalone network and don't have internet access.

    When anyone can download a few hundred gigs and build their own maps server I see that as a good thing (TM).
    • by icebike ( 68054 )

      When anyone can download a few hundred gigs and build their own maps server I see that as a good thing (TM).

      Let me know when that happens.
      Never mistake your (company supplied) hardware and paid "fun time" and your technical expertise for something "anyone" can do.

  • Sure google/apple won't know which map you are looking at...
    They'll just know everyting else about your trip, from researching information on logistics to points of interest. And that's before you go there and get tracked in real time. Then when you're back, they'll have all the extra comments you attach to your pictures, just in case your best friend is going around phone-free.

  • [] uses it to display maps of wifi-war-drived-data when you submit any. I scanned wifi-access points while driving to France for a holiday; amazing how many access points you detect even in the middle of nowhere!

    Also my toy-project O2OO [] uses its api (very simple to implement!) to draw car-sensor data of a trip you made on a map. Nice to see how e.g. the load of the engine changes when taking a corner or driving uphill ("duh" I hear you say, but it is nice to see how much it changes).
  • The OpenStreetMap people are trying to fix problems that don't actually exist.

    "Who decides what gets displayed on a Google Map? The answer is, of course, that Google does. I heard this concern in a meeting with a local government in 2009: they were concerned about using Google Maps on their website because Google makes choices about which businesses to display.

    So what? When I search an address, Google shows me where it is. By looking at the map i can see that I need to take street A to Street B and turn l

    • by PRMan ( 959735 )
      I disagree. I recently went to New Zealand where I had no cell service (I'm on Sprint and they don't do CDMA). I downloaded New Zealand on OsmAnd and the only problem getting around is that there weren't enough waypoints on the south island. But I just went on Google maps and looked up the Lat/Long and navigated using that. Offline GPS FTW. There is no other way I could have done this without service.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      The OpenStreetMap people are trying to fix problems that don't actually exist.

      "Who decides what gets displayed on a Google Map? The answer is, of course, that Google does. I heard this concern in a meeting with a local government in 2009: they were concerned about using Google Maps on their website because Google makes choices about which businesses to display.

      So what? When I search an address, Google shows me where it is. By looking at the map i can see that I need to take street A to Street B and turn left on street C. I don't need a big label that says "LOLS HEREZ TEH PLACE UR LOOKING FOR".

      I don't think they were talking about search results. Rather, what businesses are displayed on the basemap. Business owner goes to the city website and sees their competitor displayed on the map but not their own business. Now it looks like the city is endorsing one over the other. Lawsuits ensue. Or just petty bickering. Whatever. The point is that if you have all the data behind the map you can make these decisions for yourself instead of just taking whatever $company gives you.

    • ----------> Point

      ------------> Your head
    • The OpenStreetMap people are trying to fix problems that don't actually exist.

      Google Maps: Google decides what is displayed on the map. Google owns the data. We can't do anything with the data.
      OSM: You and me decide what is displayed on the map. We own the data. We can do whatever we want with the data.

      I'm sorry if you can't see the disadvantage of having your life (Google Maps, Google Search, Google Books, Google Mail, Andoid, Chrome...) owned by some company whose only interest it is to please shareholders. I'm sorry if you cannot appreciate freedom.

  • In some more than in others.
  • OpenStreetMap identifiers are not stable (at least according to a 2011 post []), which makes reusing and linking OpenStreetMap data a bit challenging. Did that change?
  • Downloading maps doesn't hide your location. Your cell phone is still pinging off cell towers and can be triangulated fairly accurately by by the cell towers using only signal strength, which is information it already has in hand in order to handle tower handoffs. If you are talking about a non-communications enabled navigation device, then you might as well buy a Garmin or one of the others, which already have the maps data internally.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      No, but looking up a location in your own copy of the map does hide which locations you are interested in going to

      • You don't need to use a phone. You could use a GPS, or use a tablet without a cell phone. Or you could put your phone in Airplane mode

  • it performs better in my browser than google maps, i can glide from place to place by dragging the map around in my browser, google maps is a slow bloated piece of crap because of all the features google bloated their map up with, so yeah i am in favor of openstreetmap surviving
  • Why's Obi Wan Kenobi on the call, watching from the bottom right?
  • by SWroclawski ( 95770 ) <> on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @07:25PM (#46105159) Homepage

    I wrote the article, but I didn't write it *for* The Guardian. They picked it up and syndicated it, as did Gizmodo ( [] ), but the original is still on my blog: []

    • Did the summary change from something else to "an article Serge wrote for his blog that The Guardian picked up"?

      Also, are you aware that the things you write might get syndicated? My blog doesn't do that, and I would shit myself out of surprise if someone syndicated something that I wrote without me knowing.

      Also, are you aware of what happens when you syndicate things? Maybe you are now, but were you?

      In other words, you seem surprised. But not as surprised as I would be. So your objection seems just a l

      • I can't imagine he's all that surprised, since his website says people are "actively encouraged" to syndicate its content.

        The syndicated columns of our youth were a bit different, though. Newspapers had to contact the syndicating companyto seek permission and pay money for the right to reproduce the column for a certain period of time, and some writers (like Dave Barry) had their home paper mentioned at the beginning or end of each column. It wasn't a free-for-all where for-profit papers just copied the c

        • In my case, the only things I require are that the work cite me as the original author and that they are distributed under the same terms. I don't require explicit permission, nor do I ask for any money. I do also ask that the original article is linked to, and that my twitter name is mentioned. Those aren't required, but they're pretty small accomodations to make. That's just so that I can try to build an audience.

      • Yes, it originally said I wrote it for the Guardian. I asked Roblimo to change it, and he did. No harm, no foul.

        I just want to make clear to anyone who wants to use my post (this or others on my blog) that they're free to do so under the same terms (CC-BY-SA).

  • by SD-Arcadia ( 1146999 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @07:27PM (#46105179) Homepage
    Fascinating topic, and I'd love to check it out but TOO BAD the video requires the craptastic Adobe Flash plugin. It's 2014, Flash is dying and HTML5 is the real way of doing things now. And Slashdot is supposed to be the home of FOSS-friendly early-adopting geeks? WTF?
  • by caseih ( 160668 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @07:43PM (#46105313)

    In recent years, OpenStreetmap has been used more and more in disaster response. This is because the data can be updated easily by volunteers on the ground, and it can easily serve as the basis for custom maps. A number of organizations have been in the news in recent years with their work in disaster response and OpenStreetmap. For example,,, and, and probably others. I'm sure they use google maps too, but the OpenStreetmap source provides flexibility that none of the other commercial mapping sources can.

    • The next step is to anticipate disasters (when possible - hurricanes yes, earthquakes no) and begin the mapping effort even before the disaster arrives...

  • What I would love to see, is something like OSM but with a much more temporary dataset.

    Right now there are a lot of apps that let you enter road hazard or police data. The trouble is that's only going up to one server, not helping the people that use all the other apps.

    I would love to see some centralization, or more likely federalization of this data - so that you could use and contribute to temporary road condition events while helping (and being helped) from a much wider pool of people.

  • I've been trying out OsmAnd+ and its route calculation is a bit shit.
    On my way home from work it tells me to exit the motorway, go through the intersection then go back on the motorway. wtf?
    Even trying to get out the city, it kept telling me to turn off the street I was on, which is a straight one-way street that goes directly to the motorway and go back through the city to take another onramp.

    Going in to work it tries to take me through the most narrow and congested streets possible.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      There are settings to toggle between shortest / fastest route and to prefer motorways (in your example I would still expect 'fastest' to always stay on the motorway. If it doesn't that's some kind of bug.).

      There is also a setting to specify your driving region. I believe this changes the routing rules to account for regional differences (what a surprise!).

      I'm not sure how the defaults are set. They might give you better routing.

      • by Askmum ( 1038780 )
        The point made by viperidaenz is valid, OSMAnd has this flaw and it does not seem to be possible to change settings to fix it. OSRM [] has the same bug. The issue has been reported over and over again, with proposals for fixes, but for some reason the makers of these applications are not able or willing to solve the issue. The underlying problem is that their route calculation says it is the fastest road, so they show it. The problem is that they do not give proper penalty for taking an offramp and/or intersec
    • Yep, OsmAnd+ sucks. Unfortunately it is the only semi-usable bicycle navigation and it is even kinda sorta usable offroads.

      Try Mapfactor Navigator Free. It is closed source and with ads, but it does use OSM as their map source. Way better routing than OsmAnd.

      • It better be. I tried it again on the way to work this morning. Although not OsmAnd's fault, it tried to tell me to take an offramp at an interchange by saying "turn slightly left".
        I had a closer look and the OSM data has the interchange layout incorrect. It hasn't changed in 20 years...
        I also thought I'd give its recommendation on how to get in to the city a go. I was 20 minutes late to work.

  • I checked out OSM after the last /. story on the subject after years of forgetting about it. I checked out where I live (a small village), and sure enough there were some crazy errors (eg. a circular road not connected to any other - I'd love to see something like this in real life!), but a couple of minutes with the mouse and they're all fixed now. I also added in some extra detail I happen to know quite well.

    What I'd like to see is what my TomTom and g-maps and as far as I know everyone else lacks - I'd l

  • I use Sygic for navigation. They have iOS and Android apps. The apps use maps that are loaded on the device, so they take up a good chunk of space, but on the other hand this means you don't need an Internet connection to navigate (if you've ever been hit with international data roaming charges, you'll really appreciate this), and the app doesn't phone home to Google every time I use it.

    They use the same map provider as TomTom. Whether that's better than OpenStreetMap or not probably depends on where you

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