History of OpenStreetMap

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Steve Coast founded OpenStreetMap in 2004, initially focusing on mapping the United Kingdom. In the UK and elsewhere, government-run and tax-funded projects like the Ordnance Survey created huge data sets, but failed to freely and widely distribute them. On August 22nd 2006, the OpenStreetMap Foundation was established to encourage the growth, development and distribution of free geospatial data and provide geospatial data for anybody to use and share.

The volunteer mappers made edits to the OSM data using a java-based applet[1] on the OSM homepage or stand-alone “offline” programs supported by own surveys, self-recorded GPS traces and public-domain satellite imagery. One of those offline editors was JOSM which was constantly improved from then on and is still one of the most used editors. In December 2006, Yahoo confirmed that OpenStreetMap could use its aerial photography as a backdrop for map production. Half a year later, a new online data editor Potlatch appeared on the OSM homepage with the intention to make the start of new users easier.

Ways to import and export data have continued to grow; by 2008, the project developed tools to export OpenStreetMap data to power portable GPS units, replacing their existing proprietary and out-of-date maps.

In November 2010 the completely rewritten editor Potlatch 2 was made available and the use of Microsoft Bing vertical aerial imagery allowed for tracing. “Simple and friendly” is the concept of the new online editor iD, which appeared in May 2013.

Founding and Early History

Tom's new editing Java Applet as of September 2005 (have a look at the map of this place today for comparison)
OSM data of Europe (circa April 2006) placed onto a satellite image.
Website in 2010

(More historical milestones needed here, see discussion)

The Start of Our Current Technology Stack

Screenshot of the editor Potlatch in 2008 (have a look at the map of this place today for comparison)
  • 5th May 2007 – The Rails Port (thus named because the old Ruby-based API code was ported to Ruby on Rails) came online with API v0.4 as did the Potlatch editor on the openstreetmap.org homepage.
  • 14th–15th July 2007 – First conference, "State Of The Map 2007", held in Manchester.
  • 1st August 2007 – 5 million ways
  • 7th August 2007 – 10,000 registered users
  • 11th August 2007 – 3rd Anniversary Party, London
  • 18th August 2007 – 100 million GPS points
  • September 2007 – TIGER data import for the US started
  • 20th September 2007 – AND Data for The Netherlands imported
  • 7th October 2007 – Move to API v0.5 with segments dropped and relations added
  • 18th November 2007 – 150 million GPS points and 100 million nodes
  • 25th December 2007 – 20,000 registered users
  • 8th January 2008 – 20 million ways
  • 13th January 2008 – 200 million nodes
  • 23th January 2008 – TIGER data import for the United States finished
  • ▶ Take a journey into the past (February 2008 until January 2009) by watching Steve's OSM editing tutorial videos(in case the playback does not work automatically, the downloadable .flv file could be played with e.g. VLC media player).
  • February 2008 – a series of workshops were held in India.
  • 19th February 2008 – 25,000 registered users
  • 12th–13th July 2008 – "State Of The Map 2008", held in Limerick, Ireland.
  • 8th February 2009 – Map updates more than once a week
  • 17th March 2009 – 100,000 registered users

New API 0.6, Explosion of User Growth and the License Change

Accumulated registered users (linear scale)
Active contributors per month
  • 21st April 2009 – Big switch to API version 0.6 which introduces changesets
  • 10th–12th July 2009 – "State Of The Map 2009", held in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
  • 25th August 2009 – Potlatch did not only have friends: there was the running gag to "ban Potlatch" (due to bad editing made by some of its – new – users using Potlatch's "live edit" mode) which even made its way into the node editing density history (visible in the USA area in a heatmap timelapse of node edits).
  • 5th January 2010 – 200,000 registered users
  • 13th January 2010 – Appeal for mappers launched after earthquake strikes Haiti. A detailed map is produced in 48 hours.
  • 1st April 2010 – Ordnance Survey Opendata releases. OSM partly responsible for bringing this about.
  • 9th–11th July 2010 – "State Of The Map 2010", held in Girona, Spain.
  • November 2010 – One year after its first public version, the new editor Potlatch 2 was embedded into the openstreetmap.org homepage and set to be the new default editor another four months later.
  • 30th November 2010 – Use of Bing vertical aerial imagery allowed
  • 29th November 2011 – 500,000 registered users
  • 9th–11th September 2011 – "State Of The Map 2011", held in Denver, Colorado, U.S.
  • 29th August 2012 – 750,000 registered users
  • 6th–8th September 2012 – "State Of The Map 2012", held in Tokyo, Japan.
  • 12th September 2012 – License switched over to ODbL
  • 23rd November 2012 – The map display of the openstreetmap.org homepage was switched from the OpenLayers to the Leaflet library
  • 6th January 2013 – 1,000,000 registered users

New User Interfaces and Continued Growth

Screenshot of the editor iD in May 2013
  • 23rd Apr 2013 – Even unregistered users can now leave Notes on the map on www.openstreetmap.org to report problems!
  • 7th May 2013 – Five months after its first public version, the new editor iD was embedded into the openstreetmap.org homepage and set to be the new default editor another three months later.
  • 6th–8th September 2013 – "State Of The Map 2013" held in Birmingham, England.
  • 2nd December 2013 – The www.openstreetmap.org website is completely redesigned.
  • 14th January 2014 – 20,000,000th changeset.
  • 9th August 2014 – Celebrations for the tenth anniversary of OpenStreetMap take place around the world
  • 7th–9th November 2014 – "State Of The Map 2014" held in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
  • 16th February 2015 – A routing feature was enabled on the www.openstreetmap.org website
  • Spring 2015 – 2,000,000 registered users
  • (State Of The Map 2015 was cancelled)
  • 30th October 2015 – New road style of the standard map. Major changes to improve legibility and consistency of roads in the cartography.
  • 16th March 2016 – The editor JOSM reaches version 10000 in its 10th year
  • 23th–25th September 2016 – "State Of The Map 2016" held in Brussels, Belgium.
  • 18th–20th August 2017 – "State Of The Map 2017" held in Aizu-Wakamatsu, Japan.
  • 20 October 2017 – The DINAcon 2017 award for digital sustainability was awarded to longterm contributors.
  • 16th June 2018 – The moderation queue was added to OpenStreetMap enabling users to report spam to moderators and administrators directly.
  • 28th–30th July 2018 – "State of the Map 2018" held in Milano, Italy.
  • 17th September 2018 – The first Data item was established. The system provides a semi-structured database of all tags.
  • 8th November 2018 – Five Million registered users.
  • 21st–23rd September 2019 – "State of the Map 2019" held in Heidelberg, Germany.
  • 2nd July 2020 – Operations Working Group announces the retirement of Trac and Subversion in August. Both have been used for OpenStreetMap development for a very long time.
  • 4th and 5th July 2020 – the first completely online "State of the Map" conference was held.
  • 25th February 2021 – 100,000,000th changeset.
  • 19th January 2023 – 10,000,000 registered users

See also