Project Details

A magnifying glass over a map


Co-creating a free map of the world that anyone can edit

By OpenStreetMap Foundation

Project URL:
Project Twitter: @openstreetmap

  • Audiovisual
  • Geolocation
  • Open Source

OpenStreetMap co-creates a free map of the world that anyone can edit. In 10 years it has grown to 1.6m registered users: mapping the world using GPS, aerial photography or by manual surveys of land, with the data published on an open license.

Founder Steve Coast set it up in 2004 as an alternative to Google Maps, and to address the lack of availability and restrictions on use of commercial maps across the world. Anyone can contribute to the cartographic project, just by walking, driving or cycling down a city’s streets or footpaths with any cheap portable GPS device, iPhones included. Now it's the largest crowdsourced mapping project on the web.

Coast was working at a computer laboratory in Cambridge when he set the map up, and started slowly building its community by talking it up at Linux discussion groups in his spare time. OpenStreetMap’s key selling point is on keeping data open, so it can act as the open-source counter to Google, which has created its own data-set, meaning that nobody else can use that data to build their own user experiences. Google ultimately decides what is, or isn’t, shown on its maps, or their prominence, and can collect metadata, such as the correlation between Google searches and where you actually go, information it can then monetise.

OpenStreetMap lacks the navigation and address information to truly compete with Google Maps, but Coast is confident the community will solve those challenges next, and will always collect the least possible amount of data from contributors, just enough to keep making its maps.

Image courtesy of OpenStreetMap

Last updated: 19th of September, 2014

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