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Features that do not exist

Resolved: Informal only applies to features, that do exist. --Hungerburg (talk) 09:32, 23 March 2021 (UTC)

Can we use this for features that truly do not exist?

For example, the paths mapped in the sports pitch example I placed, do not exist and are not "used" or indicated in any way. They are just suggested routes that people/routers should use.

The other examples seem to indicate that this tag should only be used on "unofficial" paths, but still have some sort of indication.

--Lectrician1 (talk) 19:05, 12 March 2021 (UTC)

I am bit ambivalent, as I believe the main principle for OSM mapping is "ground truth". Om the other hand ... IF you have observed that people use this shortcut (even just yourself and a few more), and it is OK to "announce" the shortcut to routing enginges, I would tend to agree that it is a good thing to map the "path" / walkable connection, and tag it as informal. Perhaps add trail_visibility=bad or none. It seems like you need to fix the link you included? I think it is most instructive to link to the way: osm:way/915310348 Or if you do not want that, drop the "edit" osm:#map=18/41.87139/-87.61886 But ideally perhaps you/we could find a clearer example where other "structures" on the map confuse the picture less? MortenLange --(talk) 22:16, 12 March 2021 (UTC)
One possible source of information for whether a shortcut is used has been to check out aggregated data tracking services, like Strava. --MortenLange (talk) 23:13, 12 March 2021 (UTC)
The example that was recently added does not belong here; 1) Openstreetmap is a collection of facts based on ground-truth. It is not a medium for mappers to tell people, where they ought to walk. 2) Even if using an exception to this concept, like for footways over squares, informal is still not the correct term. A namespaced proposed:highway:path might appropriate. --Hungerburg (talk) 18:53, 21 March 2021 (UTC)
@Hungerburg: The ground truth is that people can walk across the field in the manners mapped in the example. I also agree that informal is not the appropriate tag for this. Do you think we should have a tag like virtual=yes? --Lectrician1 (talk) 22:22, 21 March 2021 (UTC)
The ground truth, as you use the term, means that, as I (where I live) can cross a street anywhere I please, mapping any number of crossings there and tagging those informal will become sanctioned by the fine article. The ground truth, as I see it, there is a lawn on the ground in the picture you posted, and if indeed a number of people walk the lawn like this, it will soon look like in the other picture in the table, so the whole addition would be moot.
Note, that adding "virtual" or anything else to a path that does not exist on the ground is like adding construction, proposed, abandoned, disused, razed etc. to same. You are aware of the discussion on this issue and know why this is discouraged or even deprecated? And why life-cycle prefixes have been introduced, or why there is "highway=proposed; proposed=*" scheme? If you truly want to map non-existing features, "highway=virtual; virtual=routing_aid" might be a plausible too, anything but something, that already has a minimally concise meaning. --Hungerburg (talk) 23:06, 21 March 2021 (UTC)
disused=yes and abandoned=yes does show something that exist though? Only a different status. highway=virtual + virtual=routing_aid obviously loses what highway=* it is supposed to be (eg for highway=pedestrian + area=yes). You can try to distinguish a "path" on a surface built for movement (including a pitch), a "path" on an implicitly usable surface (eg lawn), and a "path" on a wild surface (eg countryside grassland) ---- Kovposch (talk) 07:33, 22 March 2021 (UTC)
You should reflect this discussion on Proposed features/highway link. ---- Kovposch (talk) 07:33, 22 March 2021 (UTC)
We should not use lifecycle prefixes or highway=proposed. We need a much more specific way to indicate such routable but nonexistant entities. --Lectrician1 (talk) 18:01, 22 March 2021 (UTC)
Lifecycle prefixes were meant as an analogy, one that still points out problems with naive approaches taken in the past. The lessons learnt then: Do not subkey an established tag with something that (even if only partly) reverts, or should I say, subverts the meaning that it has.
Please read "routing_aid" as a place holder in a highway=virtual;virtual=path|footway|cycleway, and if I fully understand the *=link proposal, also any other kind of highway.
Informal has a surprisingly well established and easy to convey meaning. Let's keep it that way.--Hungerburg (talk) 19:07, 22 March 2021 (UTC)
If they do walk across the field in the manners mapped, in preference to any other route, then I've got no objection to mapping it. However, if it's merely a can, and people actually take different routes (which I very much expect is the case with the situation in the image), then it shouldn't be mapped. --Carnildo (talk) 18:37, 22 March 2021 (UTC)
Regarding the sample picture, that has been up here, perhaps a tag to mark the lawn walkable would be cool; Nowadays, there are routers, that can do area routing avoiding obstacles, still far from perfect though, but a start.--Hungerburg (talk) 19:07, 22 March 2021 (UTC)

Adding Example for Mountain Bike Trails

I was thinking of adding to the list of examples, that mountain bike trails can be tagged with the informal=yes, to indicate a more informal process of creating bike trails. Does this sound like a good idea?--IanVG (talk) 13:18, 8 May 2021 (UTC)

First thought: These quite often are plain paths, that have been used for walking/hiking long since, sometimes informal ones anyway? And if not, then how to tell, to what the informal attribute applies: to the path, to the MTB tags? So, either nothing to gain, or adding a bit of confusion.
Second thought: Maybe I miss something? A means to mark illegal trails?--Hungerburg (talk) 19:38, 8 May 2021 (UTC)
I think it's a good idea. If the trail is there, traversable, but unsigned and otherwise appearing unofficial, it's probably informal=yes, whether it's legal or not. Bartee (talk) 18:59, 10 June 2021 (UTC)
@Hungerburg: @Bartee: To address your first point Hungerburg, there are paths in my city, that most definitely were a source of mountain bikers unofficially creating their own trails. I am not sure what you mean to be honest for the latter part of your point ("... sometimes informal ones anyway").

To address your second point ("how to tell, to what the informal attribute applies [to]...,") correct me if I am wrong, but the informal tag would apply to whatever path/MTB tag happens to best suite the use of the path. So if it's used for mountain biking, but also as an informal trail for unhoused people in the area, then the informal tag would apply to both uses of the trail.

I do think having addressed those two points, adding a mountain bike trail to the list of examples would be valuable and not generate extra confusion for this tag.

What do you think? --IanVG (talk) 04:08, 26 July 2021 (UTC)

You both called the trails "unofficial". Let me talk about that: Inherently, anything "informal" is "unofficial", but not necessarily the other way around: A MTB trail, that was put into place by the aficionados themselves, but that received planning and even construction efforts, only qualifies for "unofficial". Where I live, there are those too; more specifically, downhill trails, that might appear "informal" at a first glance. Looking closely though, one can see, that some of the seemingly random rocks on the trail are supported by wooden beams and that bumps and jumps have been shaped with shovels.
I see no need to amend the article to spell this difference out in full, as it should be clear from what is written. I advise against adding examples, that risk widening the meaning of the subject, such as to make "informal" a substitute for "unofficial". So, if you are going to add one, please make sure, the picture clearly shows something "that has not been established on purpose". --Hungerburg (talk) 10:31, 26 July 2021 (UTC)

Clarify that it does not apply to features that evolved into official ones

Resolved: One month later, page change to support the suggestion has not been contested.--Hungerburg (talk) 18:02, 26 July 2021 (UTC)

For example desire path that become paved - it no longer qualifies for informal=yes?

What about desire path that received gravel surfacing? It no longer qualifies for informal=yes, right?

Mateusz Konieczny (talk) 10:14, 24 June 2021 (UTC)

Count me in for support of adding wording to make that explicit, so to say, that "informal" may be a step in a lifecycle. Now that concept is hidden in the referenced article on desire paths.
I'd also like to get rid of "intentionally": how about "a feature has not been established on purpose"? That sounds less like psychology. The remark about routers is also just a wish, but one might want to keep wishing? --Hungerburg (talk) 11:59, 24 June 2021 (UTC)
Changed the fine article a bit to meet suggestions here. --Hungerburg (talk) 20:16, 25 June 2021 (UTC)


Resolved: 2022-09-18

With 70.000 uses growing strong; and support in at least both the most used editors, can the key be considered "De facto"? --Hungerburg (talk) 13:45, 24 June 2021 (UTC)

It is de facto now. maro21 17:54, 27 October 2023 (UTC)


Resolved: 17:54, 27 October 2023 (UTC)

This page describes informal=yes tag. It should be moved to Tag:informal=yes; this key has actually only one value. maro21 17:46, 2 July 2021 (UTC)

informal=no is also valid, it just isn't very common. --Carnildo (talk) 18:24, 2 July 2021 (UTC)
One can add *=no value to any key, I wouldn't say it's valid. Anyway, a key page should describe values of the key, so this page should be moved. maro21 18:41, 2 July 2021 (UTC)

Legal status unclear

I think, the wiki page should have recommendations for 1) a more restrictive use of mapping informal ways and 2) marking illegal ways as illegal. In fact there are lots of ways mapped as just informal=yes where you have a risk of being charged, legally prosecuted, or even threatened or harmed if you use them (e.g. protected areas, some lawns in parks, private ground). A problem arises if routing algorithms lead people these ways. On the other hand it is sometimes difficult to find out the legal status of such a way.

So a recommendation could be not to map paths without an additional access tag, and it would be advisable for routers to exclude informal=yes ways by default. But some routers (Graphhopper, OSRM ? Example for different routing behaviour) seem just to ignore the tag - then there would be a hope that they evaluate at least the access tag.

I think it is not a good idea to map ways created by vandalism (see e.g. a discussion on a note about the Way way 1098306484) and just initiate the recommendation of such ways by widely used routing software. The example here is quite harmless, but I know about small edit wars between people mapping informal ways and foresters deleting them to reduce the amount of people using illegal ways in protected nature areas.

--Segubi (talk) 10:35, 22 October 2023 (UTC)

The tag can also be applied when you do not know the legal status, it is not a problem, it is an advantage. You can add usual tags like access=no where legally the access is forbidden. --Dieterdreist (talk) 09:42, 23 October 2023 (UTC)
In fact, it is not the tag that's a problem but the fact that routing machines and renderers (at least OSMCarto) ignore that tag. But one should have this in mind if one uses the tag. As a data consumer I can't rely on the routing results of Graphhopper and OSRM, which is a pity. And also I can't rely on the OSMCarto-Maps which are widely used. And in this situation it is a small consolation that I can set access=* to private or no after an unpleasant encounter...
Another thing that could be added is that not only the combination with operator=* is without use, but I think also the combination with e.g. bicycle=yes (3676 occurrences, 671 e.g. in Germany), which is about the legal status of a way, is usually nonsense. Either there is a signpost for cycling, then the way is usually formal, or there is no signposting than you shouldn't use the key bicycle=yes. There may be exceptions on quite large cyclable areas where you could document the manifesting ways. But I think these ways wouldn't need the tag informal=yes. --Segubi (talk) 16:15, 23 October 2023 (UTC)
informal doesn’t mean forbidden, it is neither implied nor excluded. For routing to take legal access into account, add access tags, informal is not an access tag. —Dieterdreist (talk) 17:15, 23 October 2023 (UTC)

Self redirects (Cs:Key:informal and others)

I think that this redirects isn't confusing and pages should be kept. Something B (talk) 00:04, 6 November 2023 (UTC)

Why do you think so? I think such redirects mislead the user. Because after clicking on them, they are redirected to the same article. I find something like this frustrating. The documentation of the "informal=yes" tag via can be reached by clicking on "yes". So what are the advantages of keeping this redirect? maro21 17:28, 6 November 2023 (UTC)
Absence of the red links, for example. Something B (talk) 21:18, 6 November 2023 (UTC)