OSM is not only a dataset, but also a community

OSM of Old Dhaka City
OSM of Old Dhaka City

The crowd is teeming with cartographers. At least according to a (very pretty) new data report from MapBox. The report details the explosive growth of OpenStreetMap, a free global, crowdsourced map, started in 2004, which OpenStreetMap’s annual international conference, State of the Map is returning to the UK, the first time it has come to the UK since the very first State of the Map in 2007.

Since its start in the UK in 2004, OpenStreetMap’s volunteer Vespuccis have now mapped 21 million miles of road data and 78 million buildings. The map can contain fine-grain details covering specific trees, alleys, and the interior of some buildings.

Like Wikipedia, OpenStreetMap is a non profit that depends on a small proportion of its total user base to handle most of the heavy lifting. According to the report, 90 percent of changes to the map are submitted by less than 4 percent of its users. Fortunately for OpenStreetMap, it has over one million users. It has added 500,000 of them in the last six months, doubled its total in the last year and a half, and adds one thousand every day.

Indeed, OpenStreetMap has given way to a subsidiary industry of companies making apps out of all that map data, like Skobbler, Telenav, and Mapbox.

Being open doesn’t mean being perfect. OpenStreetMap took some flack for being one of Apple’s data sources for the company’s disastrous iOS6 map rollout, but the OSM Foundation insists problems with the maps originated elsewhere.

OSM is not only a dataset, but also a community. The quality of the map differs place to place, the growth of OSM reflected in the report shows people need not rely on for profit companies to tell them where they are.

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