User:Ceyockey/source draft

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Public-images-osm logo.svg source
Osm element key.svg
For indicating the source of information of anything added to the OSM database.
Group: Annotation
Used on these elements
may be used on nodesmay be used on waysmay be used on areasmay be used on relations
Documented values: 16
Wikidata-logo.svgSearch Wikidata
Status: unspecified

Source refers to where information came from for data added to OpenStreetMap. Source information is fundamental to the verifiability of OSM content ... just as it is when used to support scholarly publications, Wikipedia pages, book content, and many other types of reliable content.

There is no consensus (as of January 2013) about whether source should be added at the object (node, way, area, relation) or changeset level. The running consensus is that source information is valuable.

Source on object versus changeset

There have been a number of discussions on this topic, the most recent of which appearing on the tagging email list in January 2013.

When adding source at the object level, an editor needs to consider what information about an object comes from what source. Consider aerial image tracing. If one traces a building from the imagery, then the tags added might be the following:

Tag Value
building yes
source bing
source:date 2011-10

More details about the source can be added using the source_ref tag.

"source" can also be used as a namespace prefix to specify the source of a single attribute. For example, to attribute a source for a name tag, use source:name=photograph, or to indicate the reason for speedlimits (sign, roadmarkings, implicit speedlimits) use source:maxspeed=*.

If the tag already has a namespace prefix (e.g., mf:name=Broadway then use mf.source:name=photograph).

Use of the image tag implies source=photograph. It is not necessary to add a source tag in this case if this is the only source of information for the object. See also Geotagging Source Photos.

If a particular source is later found to infringe copyright (e.g., some source that was believed to be OK is later discovered or ruled to be copyrighted) then it would be possible to easily remove all OSM data originating from that source.


In a time when changesets didn't yet exist, the source tag was always added to objects; if you traced 1000 houses from aerial imagery, each house would carry an appropriate source tag. Since the advent of changesets, mappers usually prefer adding a source tag to the changeset as a whole because it is less work and adds less (unnecessary) data to the database. Adding source tags to individual objects is not deprecated however, and might still be required if different sources are used in the same changeset.


The usefulness of the source tag is reduced in areas where data from many sources has been added. After many diverse edits the data may depend on so many sources that it can not be accurately attributed. Also, most mappers fail to update the source tag when they edit objects, leaving the source tag reflecting only the original source of the object. This is another reason why source tags on changesets are usually preferred; the edit history of an object can then be used to see the source tags of all changesets that have contributed to the current state of the object.


Providing further information about tag values for other mappers and in some cases also for users. See the page titled Annotations for an introduction on its usage.

Key Value Element Comment Rendering Photo
attribution User defined Node Way Area Relation Attribution to originator if required
comment User defined Node Way Area Relation Comment. Usually a description of a changeset primarily for other mappers. See note=* for nodes, ways and relations.
description User defined Node Way Area Relation Text that might be viewable to the end user (perhaps using a search system or a map with pop-ups)
email User defined Node Way Area Relation E-Mail address associated with an object
fax User defined Node Way Area Relation Fax number associated with an object
fixme User defined Node Way Area Relation A description to yourself or to other mappers of a (possible) error in the map
image URL Node Way Area Relation Reference to an image (use the source_ref=* key below when the image is referencing the source of the element)
note User defined Node Way Area Relation A note to yourself or to other mappers.
phone User defined Node Way Area Relation Telephone number associated with an object
source User defined Node Way Area Relation Indicates the source of some information added to OpenStreetMap.
source extrapolation Node Way Area Relation Extension of information from a known source
source historical Node Way Area Relation From out-of-copyright mapping or other historical document
source image Node Way Area Relation Photograph or video
source knowledge Node Way Area Relation Local or common knowledge
source survey Node Way Area Relation Track from GPS unit (usually GPX fomat) or other physical survey; suggested addition - survey:date=YYYY-MM-DD
source voice Node Way Area Relation Voice recordings; e.g., dictaphone
source:name User defined Node Way Area Relation Source used to gather name information; e.g., for street names
source:ref User defined Node Way Area Relation Reference data source; e.g., for road numbers
source_ref User defined Node Way Area Relation To record the URI, source reference (e.g., Landsat) or other link to physical sources
todo User defined Node Way Area Relation A text note to yourself or another mapper describing how the particular element can be improved
url URL Node Way Area Relation URL associated with an object. Use more meaningful keys like website=*, image=* or wikipedia=* where applicable!
website URL Node Way Area Relation Official website of an object
wikipedia Language and article title Node Way Area Relation Wikipedia article associated with an object

This table is a wiki template with a default description in English. Editable here.

JOSM annotation presets

 <item name="Data Source">
   <label text="Way/Segment/Node Data Source"/>
   <combo key="source" 
          values="landsat,photograph,local knowledge,common knowledge,dictaphone,extrapolation,<other - please specify>"/>
 <item name="Street Name Source">
   <label text="Street Name Source"/>
   <combo key="source:name" 
          values="photograph,local knowledge,common knowledge,dictaphone,<other - please specify>"/>
 <item name="Road Number Source">
   <label text="Road Number Source"/>
   <combo key="source:ref" 
          values="photograph,local knowledge,common knowledge,dictaphone,<other - please specify>"/>

Most common sources and their meaning

This section lists the most commonly used values of the source key and describes its meaning. If there are more versions (by year, capitalization etc.) it is included once only. Most of the fields are blank, fill in what you know.

TODO: merge with Meanings for source tag values

Value Country(ies) Meaning Website Note
cadastre-dgi-fr fr WikiProject France/Cadastre French catastre maps. Mostly landuse
3dShapes NL 3dShapes landuse and building shapes in The Netherlands and a bit across the border
PGS wordwide Prototype Global Shoreline. Low detail coastline generated from landsat imagery.
bing worldwide Tracing of Microsoft's map service Bing aerial imagery
NHD U.S. National Hydrography Dataset. Imported rivers/lakes
cuzk:km cz Manual or semi-automatic tracing of Czech catastral map
OSAK Denmark Imported address data from official Danish source
survey worldwide see above
SanGIS␣Addresses␣Public␣Domain San Diego U.S. SanGIS government data
Geobase_Import worldwide Geobase data. Mostly place names
HELP␣SERVICE␣-␣REMOTE␣SENSING... cz Import source of some parts of road network in the Czech Republic
dibavod cz Import source of water bodies in the Czech Republic
uhul:ortofoto cz Usually manual tracing of grey-scale aerial imagery by Czech office for economic use of forests
IBGE br IBGE Import. Brazilian federal data


Many bulk imports have their own unique source tag. Users doing imports are advised to give notice of their intended actions on the Import Mailing List.

Special source tags

When tracing from aerial or satellite imagery, the imagery provider is often given as the source, e.g. Yahoo, Bing, Landsat, etc.

Source tags used by 'bots