Book Image


Book Image


Overview of this book

Imagine being able to create accurate maps that look how you want them to, and use them on the Web or in print, for free. OpenStreetMap allows exactly that, with no restrictions on how or where you use your maps. OpenStreetMap is perfect for businesses that want to include maps on their website or in publications without paying high fees. With this book in hand you have the power to make, alter, and use this geographical data in a collaborative way from anywhere on the Earth.OpenStreetMap was started because most maps you think of as free actually have legal or technical restrictions on their use, holding back people from using them in creative, productive, or unexpected ways. This book will allow you to take control of your own maps and use them smoothly. This book introduces the reader to the OpenStreetMap project and shows you how to participate in the project, and make use of the data it provides. No prior knowledge of the project is assumed, and technical details are kept to a minimum.In this book, you'll learn how easy it is to add your neighborhood to OpenStreetMap using inexpensive GPS equipment, or even no GPS at all. You'll find out how to communicate with other mappers working in the same area, and where to find more information about how to map the world around you.Once you have your area mapped, you'll learn how to turn this information into maps, whether for use in print or online, large or small, and with the details you want shown. The book describes several rendering methods, each suited to different types of map, and takes you through a tutorial on each one.
Table of Contents (17 chapters)
About the Author
About the Reviewers
How OpenStreetMap Records Geographical Features


The OpenStreetMap project began in August 2004 when British programmer Steve Coast wanted to experiment with an USB GPS receiver he'd bought and his Linux-powered notebook. He used a piece of software called GPSDrive, which took maps from Microsoft MapPoint, breaking the license conditions. Not wanting to violate copyright on those maps, he looked around for an alternative. Coast found that there were no sources of mapping data available that he could incorporate into open source software without breaking the licensing conditions or paying huge amounts.

Coast realized that he could draw his own map, and so could others, and the project was born. After presenting his ideas at open source events in London, he found that others had similar ideas, but most hadn't got their projects off the ground. Once they were persuaded to join in, OpenStreetMap was up and running.

The idea of amateur cartographers making maps with consumer-grade equipment was greeted with some skepticism at first. Some said that standard GPS receivers were too inaccurate to make maps with, as a 10-meter error would mean roads would be in the wrong place. Others claimed that a complex infrastructure was needed for such a large-scale project. Other objectors said a predefined ontology was needed, or that the database would simply be too big.

The data model was initially very crude, consisting of simple lines drawn over Landsat information from NASA. Over a period of time, the data evolved into a more useful model, but the basic principle of imposing as few restrictions as possible on mappers was followed. The server software was initially written in Java, then rewritten in Ruby, and finally in Ruby on Rails, which is still the current server platform.

In March 2006, the first desktop editing application for OpenStreetMap, JOSM, was released. This was written in Java and allowed offline mapping for the first time. Soon after, the first full-color map was created using a renderer written specifically for OpenStreetMap, called Osmarender, showing Weybridge in Surrey, and added to Wikipedia.

In the month of May of that year, the first mapping event was held on the Isle of Wight (pictured in the previous image). This was the first time many of the mappers had met in person, and marked a turning point for the project. One single area was mapped in detail by many people, showing that the crowdsourcing approach to geography worked. Mapping parties like this event have become regular features of the OpenStreetMap community, and are held all over the world wherever mappers spot an area that needs better coverage.

The OpenStreetMap Foundation was formed in August 2006 to own the infrastructure needed to run the project and accept donations. Prior to this, the servers, domain names, and other infrastructure had been owned by Steve Coast, and establishing the foundation gave the project an existence beyond one person's involvement.

May 2007 saw the server software move to the Ruby on Rails platform, and the release of the online Flash-based editor, Potlatch. Later that month, the first annual OpenStreetMap conference, The State of the Map, was held in Manchester. By August, there were five million ways in the database, and 10,000 registered users on the OpenStreetMap website.

In September 2007, Automotive Navigation Data (AND), a Dutch mapping company, donated its dataset for the Netherlands to the project. This was the first time a commercial organization had provided data to the project, and the first time the whole of any country was covered for some types of data.

During the same month, the process of importing the US government public domain geodata set, known as TIGER (Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing) was started, completing in January 2008. Work began immediately to clean this data up and to make it conform with OpenStreetMap data standards.

By February 2008, there were 25,000 registered users of the OpenStreetMap website, and an appeal was launched to raise £10,000 for new servers. In the end, over £15,000 was raised in less than a week.

State of the Map 2008 was held in Limerick, Ireland in July. By the end of that year, over 300 million points had been plotted in the database. On March 17, 2009, the 100,000th user registered on the site, less than five years after the project started; the number of users had quadrupled in just over a year.

At the time of writing, over half a million points were being added to the OpenStreetMap database each day, and the rate of growth was still increasing.