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Bing is a search service from Microsoft, which includes the 'Bing Maps' platform (previously 'Microsoft Virtual Earth'). The platform includes map tiles, map embedding APIs, routing, and so on. It makes use of proprietary datasets, often licensed from third party geodata providers, and its use is therefore bound by copyright restrictions… however:

Bing Maps are investigating working with OpenStreetMap in various ways:

Bing Aerial Imagery

Bing imagery in Potlatch 2, available in the 'Background' drop-down settings. By default 'dim' is ticked, causing paler colours in the imagery

In November 2010 it was announced ([1], [2]) that Bing has granted the right to trace from their aerial imagery for the purpose of contributing content to OpenStreetMap. Please note the only legal use of Bing maps is to use the aerial imagery layer as background to do your own OSM drawing (also known as "tracing"). It is not legal to use any other information from Bing maps (like street names, street view etc).

For more information see Bing license.pdf.

How to use in the editors

  • Most used editors (sorted alphabetically):
    • iD – Opens with bing by default, but you can select 'Bing aerial imager' in the layer picker icon on the right
    • JOSM – In the 'Imagery' menu, select 'Bing'
    • Potlatch 2 – Opens with bing by default, but you can select 'Bing' in the 'Background' drop-down. There you can also switch off the brightening.
  • Other editors:
    • Merkaartor – Create a new layer via the menu Create → Add new Image layer, and then change the image layer's source to Bing via the menu Layer → Map → Plugins → Bing (v0.17 and later).
    • Potlatch 1not available, and probably won't ever be.

Source tag

Use source=Bing. (This is OSM policy, not a Bing requirement.)

Coverage and age

The coverage of high-resolution imagery can be assessed using this tool. You have to zoom in to zoom level 14 or more to discover high resolution tiles, which will then result in green and red tiles indicating availability of imagery being rendered in all zoom levels. See discussion.

The age of the images can be viewed using the Bing imagery analyzer for OSM (link). By changing the zoom you can view the age of images taken at each zoom level. See discussion.

See also Bing/Coverage to find out and help document areas of available coverage.


Be aware that at lower zooms, Bing's imagery may be misaligned. I.e., alignment is not consistent across zooms; at one zoom, you'll be aligned, but another, you'll be misaligned. This is different than other image sources, including Yahoo, which if misaligned tend to be consistently misaligned irrespective the zoom you're using. This is true of various places worldwide.

Areas with height differences (mountains, hills, bridges) seem more prone to this, which suggests that imagery was not always taken at a precise 90 degree angle. As a result, objects at the same height (ground level in a flat area) may be quite precise while objects which are higher (embankments, bridges, buildings) or lower (cuttings) may be slightly off.

Use GPS tracks, other OSM data you know is aligned, or other aligned imagery (if available) to align the imagery in a local area.

Precision-related discussions

2012 censorship of military areas in Germany

In the end of January 2012, Bing blurred many military bases in Germany after being asked by the German government to do so. The polygons of these areas were given to Microsoft by the German government. It is suspected that these polygons could have been exported from OpenStreetMap, since several blurred areas are perfectly matched to landuse=military polygon.

The details are collected on Bing/2012 Germany Military Blurring

Usage in this wiki

Is it legal to use bing in images in the wiki? - See this discussion.

Other OpenStreetMap Bingnitiatives

Road detect API

Bing announced access to an experimental service which can automatically derive street vector data from Bing aerial imagery. Given a start and end point, the service will attempt perform image processing to recognise the position of a road, and return vector data for it.

See Bing road detect API for more details.

OpenStreetMap via the Bing Maps APIs

They have added an OpenStreetMap layer to their platform. This can be viewed on (requires Microsoft Silverlight 3 - Moonlight 2 (latest stable release as of Dec 2010) will not work) and is available in the "map apps" area.

See also "Microsoft launch an OpenStreetMap Mapnik layer on Bing Maps" Announced Aug 2nd 2010

FrontDoor addressing project

Bing's connects street addresses with their associated buildings. You can help out by moving a pointer on an aerial photo to the front door of the building. The address data will be used in Bing and donated to OSM, though there are no details on how this will happen (or currently is happening) TODO: please update if details are published.

This is a micro task presented to the user repeatedly. It's simple and perhaps a little addictive, like a game. It does not require a login, and may work on some smartphones. Tools for casual contribution have great potential for reaching out to new people who are put off by the complexity of OSM editing.

External links