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File:Openstreetmap logo.svg
OpenStreetMap of Cambridge, England
Slogan The Free Wiki World Map
Commercial? No
Type of site Collaborative mapping
Registration required for contributors
Owner OpenStreetMap Community[1]
Created by Steve Coast
Launched July 1, 2004(2004-07-01)

OpenStreetMap (OSM) is a collaborative project to create a free editable map of the world.

The maps are created using data from portable GPS devices, aerial photography, other free sources or simply from local knowledge. Both rendered images and the vector graphics are available for download under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 licence.[2]

OpenStreetMap was inspired by sites such as Wikipedia; the map display features a prominent 'Edit' tab and a full revision history is maintained. Registered users can upload GPS track logs and edit the vector data using the given editing tools.[3]



OpenStreetMap (OSM) was founded in July 2004 by Steve Coast. In April 2006, a foundation was established with the aim of encouraging the growth, development and distribution of free geospatial data and providing geospatial data for anybody to use and share. In December 2006 Yahoo confirmed that OpenStreetMap could use their aerial photography as a backdrop for map production.[4]

In April 2007 Automotive Navigation Data (AND) donated a complete road dataset for the Netherlands and trunk road data for India and China to the project[5] and by July 2007, when the first OSM international The State of the Map conference was held there were 9,000 registered users. Sponsors of the event included Google, Yahoo and Multimap. In August 2007 an independent project, OpenAerialMap, was launched, to hold a database of aerial photography available on open licensing[6] and in October 2007 OpenStreetMap completed the import of a US Census TIGER road dataset.[7] In December Oxford University became the first major organisation to use OpenStreetMap data on their main website.[8]

In January 2008 functionality was made available to download map data into a GPS unit for use by cyclists.[9] In February 2008 a series of workshops were held in India.[10] In March two founders announced that they have received venture capital funding of 2.4m euros for CloudMade, a commercial company that will use OpenStreetMap data.[11]


By August 2008, shortly after the second The State of the Map conference was held, there were over 50,000 registered contributors; by March 2009 there were 100,000 and by the end of 2009 the figure was nearly 200,000.[12]

Not all registered contributors actually contribute to the map; a minority of individuals contribute the majority of the content.[citation needed] in March 2008 approximately 10% of the registered user base were contributing map data each month.[13]

Map production

File:Mapping Strasbourg.jpg
Recording a GPS trace.


The initial map data was all built from scratch by volunteers performing systematic ground surveys using a handheld GPS unit and a notebook or a voice recorder, data which was then entered into the OpenStreetMap database from a computer.

More recently the availability of aerial photography and other data sources from commercial and government sources has greatly increased the speed of this work and has allowed land-use data to be collected more accurately.

When large datasets are available a technical team will manage the conversion and import of the data.

Structured ground surveys

Ground surveys are performed by a volunteer (also called 'mapper'), on foot, bicycle or in a car. Map data is usually collected using a GPS unit, although this isn't strictly necessary if an area has already been traced from satellite imagery.

Once the data has been collected, it is entered into the database by uploading it on the project's website. At this point in time, no information about the kind of uploaded track is available - it could be e.g. a motorway, a footpath or a river. Thus, in a second step, editing takes place using one of several purpose-built map editors. This is usually done by the same 'mapper', sometimes by other user(s) registered at OpenStreetMap.

As collecting and uploading data is separated from editing objects, contribution to the project is possible also without using a GPS unit. In particular, placing and editing objects such as schools, hospitals, taxi ranks, bus stops, pubs etc. is done based on editors' local knowledge.

Some committed contributors are systematically mapping whole towns and cities over a period of time, or organising mapping parties to intensively map a particular area over an evening or a weekend.

In addition to structured surveys, a large number of smaller edits are made by contributors to correct errors or add features.

Government data sources

Some government agencies have released official data on appropriate licenses. Much of this data has come from the United States, where the federal government does not copyright such data.

Various authorities have also made more local detailed aerial photography available on suitable licenses through OpenAerialMap.

The UK Ordnance Survey is legally a Trading Fund and as such is required to earn money from selling its data and is not open to contributing data to the project.[14] Consideration is however currently being given to changing the structure of the organization to make its data more available.[15] In 2006 The Guardian launched a campaign named 'Free our data' to support freeing up government data including mapping data[16]. The Government's Shareholder Executive will report on its latest review of the Trading Funds in the 2008 Pre-Budget Report, due in the autumn[vague].

Out-of-copyright maps can be good source of information about features which don't change frequently. Copyright periods vary, but in the UK Crown copyright expires after 50 years and hence Ordnance Survey maps until the 1950s can legally be used. A complete set of UK 1 inch/mile maps from the late 1940s and early 1950s have been collected, scanned and are available online as a resource for contributors.

Commercial data sources

Some commercial companies have donated data to the project on suitable licenses. Notably, Automotive Navigation Data (AND) who provided a complete road dataset for Netherlands and details of trunk roads in China and India.

In December 2006, Yahoo! confirmed that OpenStreetMap was able to make use of their vertical aerial imagery and this photography is now available within the editing software as an overlay. Contributors can create their vector based maps as a derived work, released with a free and open license.[17]


File:OpenStreetMap homepage.png
Homepage of

The OpenStreetMap database

OpenStreetMap data is published under an open content license, with the intention of promoting free use and re-distribution of the data (both commercial and non-commercial). The license used is currently the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 licence, however legal investigation work and community consultation is under-way to re-license the project under the Open Database License (ODbL) from Open Data Commons (ODC) which is more suitable for a map dataset.[2]

Input data

All data added to the project needs to have a license compatible with the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license. This can include out of copyright information, public domain or other licenses. All contributors must register with the project and agree to provide data on a Creative Commons BY-SA 2.0 licence or determine that the licensing of the source data is suitable: this may involve examining licences for government data to establish if it they are compatible.

A subset of contributors have made their contributions available as public domain.[18]


Software used in the production and presentation of OpenStreetMap data is available from many different projects and each may have their own licencing. The core Ruby on Rails code to manage the databases, much user interaction and the API are available under a GNU General Public License.[19]


OpenStreetMap data is available through an increasing number of sites and in different formats:

On-line raster maps

Mapping is available online both on general mapping sites:

Map Theme Area
OpenStreetMap general, cyclists, debugging Worldwide
Information Freeway general, almost realtime Worldwide
OSM WMS Servers general, Web Map Services Worldwide
OpenSeaMap nautical chart Worldwide, multilingual:
seas, oceans and waterways
OpenStreetBrowser features highlighting Europe
FreeMap walkers parts of the UK
Topo walkers and riders Austria, Germany, Switzerland
OpenCycleMap cyclists Worldwide
YourNavigation routing Worldwide
OpenRouteService routing Europe
OpenPisteMap skiing some European and USA resorts[20]
CloudMade general, mobile and various other custom styles Worldwide
ÖPNV-Kartepublic transport Europe
OSM Mapper Debugging maps by Ito World Ltd

Off-line raster maps

Handheld GPS receivers

  • Garmin: There are several programs available that can convert OpenStreetMap data into Garmin compatible maps [21]

Mobile phones

A wide variety of programs exist by now that use OpenStreetMap data to display maps on mobile phones[22], supporting a large number of different devices. Amongst supported devices are nearly all phones that can run Java for mobiles, making OpenStreetMap available to the majority of current phones, as well as platforms like Android[23], the iPhone[24], Windows Mobile[25] or Openmoko. The various programs distinguish themselves according to key features like if they use raster maps or vector maps, if they need an Internet connection or can be used offline, if they support address search or advanced features like routing, thus catering for a large number of different needs for viewing maps. With the inclusion of OpenStreetMap support in several programming libraries for mobile phones[26][27] it is also possible to include OSM maps in other location-based service.


Yahoo has started using OpenStreetMap data within its Flickr service for various cities around the world, including Baghdad, Beijing, Kabul, Sydney and Tokyo.[28][29][30]


The WordPress OpenStreetMap plug-in inserts maps and adds geo meta tags to posts / pages of WordPress blogs.

Map data

Map data is available for download in a variety of formats and for different geographical areas:

  • OpenStreetMap osm[31]
  • CloudMade osm, garmin[32]
  • Geofabrik osm, esri[33]

Monopoly City Streets

In 2009, Hasbro, the games company behind the property trading board game Monopoly, launched Monopoly City Streets, a massively multiplayer online game which allowed players to buy streets all over the world. Although the game used map tiles from Google Maps and the Google Maps API to display the game board, the underlying vector street data was obtained from OpenStreetMap.[34]

Streets Clock - OpenStreetMap vectors in physical product design

In 2009, Austrian mass customization company Fluid Forms introduced the vectors of OpenStreetMaps into the proprietary product "Streets Clock". it is an online design interface with which people design customized wall clocks from a city's street-map. Fluid Forms uses the vectors to enable visitors of the website to get previews of how the clock will look in real-time. [35]


Map rendering and presentation

File:Soho - map 1.png
OpenStreetMap of Soho, central London
  • Online Ajax-style OpenLayers based slippy map interface. Displaying map tiles rendered by:
    • Mapnik — C++ open source map rendering software used on the main OSM site
    • OsmarenderXSLT style sheets for generating SVG images from OSM data. Used as part of the Tiles@home distributed map-rendering system for the main OSM site.
    • MapOSMatic — generates city maps of using OSM data with the map split in squares allowing to easily look for streets, and an index of the streets with references to the squares on the map.
    • Cartagen - javascript/HTML5 "canvas" element based renderer (client-side rendering).
  • Desktop
    • osm-gps-map - Open source Gtk+ widget for displaying map and track data.
    • GMap.NET — Offers a Windows .NET control for displaying OSM and other maps.
    • Kosmos — Windows application for rendering maps, with an interactive mode and a local tile server mode
    • OSMMap — Windows tool for browsing the OSM Maps (using Mapnik and Osmarender)
    • tangoGPS — Open source, Linux-based mapping application for use with or without GPS. Suitable for use on many Linux platforms including desktops, the eeePC and phones such as the Openmoko Neo.
    • Prune - Open source Java application for viewing and editing data recorded by GPS. Uses OSM for the map layers.
    • GPSDrive - Open source car navigation application running on Linux/BSD/OS X
    • Marble - Free and open source desktop-globe, which supports OpenStreetMap data.
    • Quantum GIS — Open source desktop GIS which includes OSM plugin
  • Phone and GPS displays
  • Wordpress Blogs via OSM Plugin

Map data collection

  • GPSBabel — converts tracklogs from one format to another.
  • AFTrack — Symbian 60v3 for Nokia mobile phones, live tracking and routing software, from version 1.03 onwards
  • WhereAmI - Symbian S60, S80, and UIQ live tracking and OSM data download and rendering (GPL'ed)
  • MyMotion — Windows CE tracking software
  • TrackMyJourney (TMJ) - J2ME tracking software, which show OSM data, and uses OSM data for routing over the air.
  • OSM2Go — Mobile/Desktop Hildon/Gtk editor includes tracking functionality
  • OSM Live - displays who is editing the Open Street Map in realtime
  • iLOE - (iPhone Little OpenStreetMap Editor) Editor for the iPhone (Upload and edit nodes, collecting and editing)
  • MapZen POI Collector — iPhone Points of Interest editor by CloudMade

Map data editing

JOSM - Java-based map editor
File:Merkaartor sample.jpg
Merkaartor - Multi-platform Qt-based map editor


List of Online Routing on the OSM wiki [2] List of Offline Routing on the OSM wiki [3]

Data format

OpenStreetMap uses a topological data structure.

  • Nodes are points with a geographic position.
  • Ways are lists of nodes, representing a polyline or polygon.
  • Relations are groups of nodes, ways and other relations which can be assigned certain properties.
  • Tags can be applied to nodes, ways or relations and consist of name=value pairs.

Up to version 0.4 of its protocol, an intermediate element between nodes and ways (segments(=line segments which two node produced)) was also used.

An optional ontology of map features (the meaning of tags) is maintained on a wiki.

See also


  1. "FAQ - OpenStreetMap". 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Richard Fairhurst (2008-01-07). "The licence: where we are, where we’re going". OpenGeoData. Retrieved 2008-07-24. 
  3. Steve Coats in, 2009-07-13 (in German)
  4. "OpenGeoData » Yahoo! aerial imagery in OSM". 
  5. "OpenGeoData » AND donate entire Netherlands to OpenStreetMap". 
  6. "OpenGeoData » OpenAerialMap – Community contributed aerial imagery". 
  7. " :: OpenStreetMap project imports US government maps". 
  8. "geothought: Oxford University using OpenStreetMap data". 
  9. "Systeme D: Cycle map on your GPS". 
  10. openstreetmap:India
  11. "CloudMade » We’re funded!". 
  12. "Stats". OpenStreetMap. Retrieved 2010-01-01. 
  13. "OpenGeoData » We’re on a road to everywhere". 
  14. Ordnance Survey - Trading on geographic intelligence
  15. The Office of Fair Trading: OFT welcomes government review of public sector information
  16. SA Mathieson and Michael Cross (2006-03-23). "Ordnance Survey challenged to open up". The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-02-23. 
  17. Steve Coast (2006-12-04). "Yahoo! aerial imagery in OSM". OpenGeoData. Retrieved 2008-07-23. 
  18. "OpenStreetMap Legal FAQ". "Several contributors additionally make their code available under different licences" 
  19. "OpenStreetMap License". "OpenStreetMap software is licensed under the GNU GPL" 
  20. openstreetmap:WikiProject Piste Maps
  21. Openstreetmap:OSM Map On Garmin
  22. openstreetmap:Software/Mobilephones
  23. [[1]]
  24. openstreetmap:IPhone
  25. openstreetmap:WinPDA
  26. "mgmapslib". 
  27. "Cloudmade mobile API". 
  28. "Around the world and back again". Retrieved 2008-11-07. 
  29. "More cities". Retrieved 2008-11-07. 
  30. "Japanese progress in osm. Amazing stuff!". 
  31. "Index of /". 
  32. "CloudMade Downloads". 
  33. "GEOFABRIK Downloadbereich". 
  34. Raphael, JR: 'Monopoly City Streets' Online Game: Will Buying Park Place Be Any Easier?, PC World, September 9, 2009.
  35. Williams, Stephen:The OpenStreetMap Streets Clock

External links

ar:خريطة الشارع المفتوح bar:Open Street Map ca:OpenStreetMap cs:OpenStreetMap da:OpenStreetMap de:OpenStreetMap et:OpenStreetMap es:OpenStreetMap eo:OpenStreetMap eu:OpenStreetMap fr:OpenStreetMap hr:OpenStreetMap is:OpenStreetMap it:OpenStreetMap he:OpenStreetMap sw:OpenStreetMap lv:OpenStreetMap lt:OpenStreetMap hu:OpenStreetMap ml:ഓപ്പണ്‍സ്ട്രീറ്റ്മാപ്പ് ms:OpenStreetMap nl:OpenStreetMap ja:オープン・ストリート・マップ no:OpenStreetMap pl:OpenStreetMap pt:OpenStreetMap ro:OpenStreetMap ru:OpenStreetMap simple:OpenStreetMap sk:OpenStreetMap sl:OpenStreetMap fi:OpenStreetMap sv:OpenStreetMap tr:OpenStreetMap uk:OpenStreetMap zh:OpenStreetMap

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