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OpenStreetMap - more than an ugly set of tiles

20 Apr 2014

I'm a big fan of OpenStreetMap, and frequently I find myself trying to explain it to other people. This explanation usualy starts with something like "It's Wikipedia for maps." Sometimes the explanation gets the the point where I'm looking for visual examples, sending people to is nice, but it can leave some people with the impression that it's just an uglier version of google maps. So I put together some examples of interesting uses of OpenStreetMap.

What is OpenStreetMap?

"OpenStreetMap" Wikipedia: the free encyclopedia

OpenStreetMap (OSM) is a collaborative project to create a free editable map of the world. Two major driving forces behind the establishment and growth of OSM have been restrictions on use or availability of map information across much of the world and the advent of inexpensive portable satellite navigation devices.

Created by Steve Coast in the UK in 2004, it was inspired by the success of Wikipedia and preponderance of proprietary map data in the UK and elsewhere. Since then, it has grown to over 1 million registered users, who can collect data using GPS devices, aerial photography, and other free sources. These crowdsourced data are then made available under the Open Database License. The site is supported by the OpenStreetMap Foundation, a non-profit organization registered in England.

Rather than the map itself, the data generated by the OpenStreetMap project are considered its primary output. These data are then available for use in both traditional applications, like their usage by Craigslist, Geocaching, MapQuest Open, JMP statistical software, and Foursquare to replace Google Maps, and more unusual roles, like replacing default data included with GPS receivers. These data have been favourably compared with proprietary datasources, though data quality varies worldwide.


3D Buildings

Topographic Maps


Vector Maps




Directions Courtesy of MapQuest


View my edit history on
Map Data by OpenStreetMap, under CC BY SA.