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OSMF Selling Data to Google?

Posted by Omnific on 9 April 2017 in English.

It’s odd that this hasn’t generated any discussion:

If OSMF is truly planning to implement such a deal wherein Google gets to copy useful data in exchange for funds, I would certainly stop contributing. The price tag is almost certainly a pittance (a few million per year, probably) compared to the value of all that local data, and given that Google spends billions on map data per year. This is counter to the entire reason I contribute to OSM. If this goes through, I might as well contribute directly to Google’s commercial maps. And the stipend idea is hilarious and almost an insult, as it will likely be pennies per hour.


Simon Poole’s recent user diary pointed out a disturbing fact: only 5.2 million US addresses exist in OSM. According to research, there are at least 113 million residential and 5.6 million commercial buildings in the US that need addressing. Given that only about 4% of the US has been addressed in 10 years, it should take us (based on a purely linear model) 250 years to address the remainder of the currently extant buildings. Even if the curve is closer to expontial, it will still take decades.

Furthermore, unlike in many European counties, the US isn’t particularly pedestrian friendly. Hand surveying massive rural sections of the US is unrealistic. What’s more, these counties are going to be the last (least progressive) about opening up addressing data for use in OSM.

Right now, probably 99% of US addresses are from large scale imports. DC, Atlanta, NYC, San Diego, Seattle, Chicago. Progressive metropolitan areas are nearly exclusive in terms of opening up addressing data for OSM. Sure, a few counties in Minnesota beg to differ, but they are the exception, not the rule.

The fact is that the usability of the map in the US is seriously detracted without addressing data. Furthermore, our community is too small to support surveys of this scale. Our per capita number of OSM users who contribute locally is orders of magnitude below that of European countries, especially Germany.

But we have the data. Sure, the address ranges included in TIGER aren’t perfect, but they are in line with the CANVEC address ranges used in Canada. From my low level comparison with Google data in a rural town, addresses were off by 10-20 feet max. More rural areas increased the uncertainty level, but it is significantly better than literally nothing. Nor are they particularly difficult to export, as the tags are simple to interpret. If we get better data, deletion is a breeze with a simple search and select deletion method in JOSM.

Many of the old guard of OSM protest this, saying they aren’t good enough. The fact is that perfect is the enemy of good. We need something, but right now 96% of the US doesn’t have addressing. Steve Coast understands the OSM can’t break the barrier into being anywhere as close as good as Google/Bing/etc without addresses. We need TIGER address ranges in OSM as soon as possible.