Web front end

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The web front-end to OSM includes many features other than the API, including messaging, diaries, friends and many others. This page attempts to document them in some helpful fashion.

Most of the logic of the web front end is implemented in Ruby on Rails, as part of the same rails app which powers the API "The Rails Port". For a technical big picture view of these things, see component overview. Improving OpenStreetMap is a round-up of potential changes to the web front end, design, and rest of OSM's architecture.

Front Page Map

The front page of OpenStreetMap.org A.K.A "The Map".

  • See Browsing for help on browsing the map, and on permalinking etc
  • See Slippy Map for some technical details of how the map display works
  • See Front Page Design for discussion on how this page should (or shouldn't) be redesigned

Front page routing

Routing has long been available on other websites, making use of OpenStreetMap data, but it was introduced onto the OpenStreetMap front page in 2015, as an interface calling these external services. See Front page routing

Query features tool

The "query features" tool was introduced in 2014. It's lets users click on the map and open the tags for elements near where they clicked, as explained on this blog post. It is implemented with a call to Overpass API. See query features tool

Data layer

The data layer is a layer you can activate, showing click-able vectors, plus a display appearing in the left side panel. See Data layer.

Data browser

Accessible from the 'Details' links in the data layer, the data browser pages are more simple raw data views on the data, appearing at 'browse' URLs such as http://www.openstreetmap.org/browse/node/26821100

Currently these pages are blocked from google indexing for performance reasons, although they could potentially be rather good for grabbing google rankings (a local business / street name catalogue)

User diaries

User diaries (at http://www.openstreetmap.org/diary ) can be used by mappers to keep track of their work. This serves two primary purposes:

  • it helps the user to keep track of the changes and helps the user document his/her daily activities and data updates. This can be really helpful when there is a isolated user working at a under mapped locality.
  • it helps other users to read each other's experiences, share expertise, and ask questions. It also helps the community members collaborate in a community project.


Anyone with a OSM account can click the diary tab and make a new entry describing their activity. HTML may be used for formatting. (Urls are made into links automatically). The interface also features a map to point the location where the activity has been carried out.

Users can also browse through diary entries of other people using the given link.

User messaging

User messaging feature is built to serve the purpose of communication between the registered users of OSM. Users can send private messages to other users through this feature. The user for whom the message is addressed is intimated through email, given during the registration, about any new incoming messages.


You can make friends with each other (just like on facebook and many other sites these days) At the moment this doesn't do much. It allows you to see the home location of your friends (if they've set it). These appear as blue markers on the map on your user page. Other users may also be able to see your home location, but only if theirs is very nearby (the green markers)

Permissions and roles

There are currently two roles that a user may have in OSM:

Users in this role are able to manage the roles of other users. There are a very small number of admins.
Users in this role can create temporary blocks on other users, which prevent those other users from using the API. This is a feature to prevent vandalism. There are currently no moderators, but this will be reviewed at the next Data working group meeting, along with any procedures which need to be put in place to monitor and regulate moderator activity.


Administrators can be distinguished by the yellow star to the right of their display name on their user page.


Moderators are able to create temporary blocks, giving a textual reason for the block. These blocks are publicly visible, so that members of the community can discuss these issues and blocks in public. In addition to the message, blocks have another two features:

  • Expiry time: the block is for a certain amount of time (currently max. 4 days). This is to give time for dialogue to take place and any damage to the map to be repaired.
  • Require message read: the block is enforced until the user logs in via the web interface and views a message. This is to ensure that users are aware of any reason that their behaviour may be considered unsuitable.

Both features can be combined, expiring only when both conditions are met. Moderators can also revoke blocks, if they turn out not to be necessary any further.

Moderators are identified by the blue star to the right of their display name on their user page.