OSM Works Its Way Up

OpenStreetMap.org Becomes a Destination

The non-profit OpenStreetMap (OSM) Foundation is offering point-to-point navigation services in addition to raw map data.

OSM is a crowd-sourced, freely available geolocation database created by hundreds of thousands of contributors across the globe. The OSM Foundation competes against Nokia’s Here and TomTom’s Tele Atlas in much the same way the Linux Foundation competes with Apple and Microsoft.

OSM expects to increase the engagement level of its audience by offering street directions on its site. Contributors who begin using OSM’s site for A-to-B directions are more likely to find errors and gaps, and new users are more likely to chip in with local navigation information and points of interest.

OpenStreetMap previously only played a background role, with third-party services like GraphHopper and MapQuest relying on OSM data as a low-cost alternative to other map suppliers. OSM gets a by-line in the fine print, but the organization hasn’t been able to build much of a brand among mainstream users. OpenStreetMap has now reversed the roles by using GraphHopper and MapQuest’s services to power navigation on its own site.

In reality, the new OSM service is unlikely to seduce many users away from competing online services like Google Maps, though it could attract some people looking for an increased level of privacy. However, OSM’s point-to-point search may prove to be an effective method of uncovering problems with the underlying data, and could enable contributors to find and address weaknesses.

OpenStreetMap has created a high level of community spirit. The organization lacks or lags in many mapping areas — mobile, turn-by-turn voice navigation, live traffic and public transit data, for example — but OSM has become a serious source of location data in what’s otherwise a market duopoly.


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