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This is Oliver's personal view on the OpenStreetMap project


OpenStreetMap is a fantastic project. It attracts more and more contributors. The map coverage is developing fast, shows an immense dynamic and gains a very interesting level of details in specific areas. While the contributors and the map coverage is growing fast, the usage of OpenStreetMap data lacks behind. Most users that just want to ‘consume’ a map go to sources like Google Maps while many companies that are interested in OpenStreetMap data remain hesitant because they are feeling unsecure in regards of the share-a-like license. For me it seems like that part of the OpenStreetMap potential remains untapped.

My ultimate aim

My ultimate aim is to help that the OpenStreetMap project unfolds its own ecosystem by discovering and claiming its (market) segment in the digital mapping turf - regardless if it is special interest maps, outstanding detailed coverage or whatever. I want to help that OpenStreetMap becomes a viable alternative in the Open Geo stack when users, developers or companies need a digital map. My intention is to help that OpenStreetMap achieves the acceptance and respect it deserves among developers and companies so that an ecosystem can evolve.

What change

There are three specific goals that I want to pursue

  • Improve the communication among mappers, companies, developers: Make transparent for which use cases the map is appropriate, where its strengths and weaknesses are by “decrypting” the license, providing better information and statistics about the map coverage as well as the available map attributes. From my discussions I know that many companies are interested in using OpenStreetMap but remain reluctant as they fear that proprietary data will become “public data”. On the other hand many people consider OSM as a playground for techies as they have taken their last closer look at the map more than 18 months ago and this impression still prevails.
  • Help to identify a spot in the digital mapping turf that gives the OpenStreetMap project a long-term perspective and builds upon the strengths of OpenStreetMap. Most activities in the OSM community are related to the fun stuff like mapping, inventing new map attributes or coding software solutions related to OSM. While the OpenStreetMap project attracts more and more users, most activities are not crosschecked against a long-term strategy. Many values have been established in the OpenStreetMap community and there seems to be something in the air, which makes all the active contributors belief in the project. However, the vision, mission and values need to be distilled and transformed into words so that they become explicit and serve as guideline for short- and mid-term decisions as well as to inspire even more people to join the OpenStreetMap project as active contributors.
  • Protect the OpenStreetMap project from exploitation by large companies. There is a lot of money at stake: Nokia paid $8.1 billion for Navteq, TomTom paid €1.8 billion for TeleAtlas. The map maker acquisitions during 2007 led to fact that there no more independent commercial map makers on a global scale. Many players have now to purchase map data licenses from their fiercest competition. Due to this situation there are many companies out there that are interested in having their own map. In the US market there is the Tiger data set, which has been used to build a digital map database. The situation is different in Europe and other places on the world where such a free “raw database” does not exist. It is an act of balance to protect the IP on the one hand and to encourage the use of the OpenStreetMap data on the other hand. Therefore it needs significant attention. Since the OpenStreetMap data are a scarce resource in many places of the world these data need to be protected against exploitations. While others would like to see OpenStreetMap as public domain, I am a supporter for well balanced license.