[As always this is just my own, personal, opinion, and is no way an official statement by anybody]
Yesterday I had a short exchange of tweets with somebody that was surprised that http://opendata-hackday.de/ was using google maps instead of OSM. Given that it is rather a convoluted subject, explaining why this in fact is not surprising was a bit difficult in 140 letters and is what prompted me to create this post.
It is probably just natural that outsiders, even members of both the OSM community and the Open Data movement, simply assume that these are essentially the same and have a large overlap in motives and goals. Numerous OSM contributors are active in the Open Data movement and undoubtedly we are a very large consumer of open data in various forms.
However this apparent overlap shouldn’t hide the fact that both our goals and motives are in large parts completely different. The Open Data movement is about liberating, accessing and exploiting data that is already there, and, please don’t take this negative, about improving the bottom line of the companies involved. One of the major arguments used in prying data out of the hands of government is that it will have a beneficial net effect for our economies and the involved companies and I don’t have an argument with that. On top of that, the “we have already paid for it” justification is surely, at least in some ways, correct.
The OpenStreetMap project is very different, it is all about producing free and open geo-data and while we do utilize open sources, we are clearly at our best when the data has been surveyed and curated by mappers on the ground. Our goal is, in the end, to produce the best “map” of the world that is at the same time freely usable and re-reusable. Yes, some of the economic arguments apply just as well to the OSM ecosystem as they do to the same in the Open Data movement. I think we should be all be proud of the enlightened view the OSM community has had on commercial re-use of our data from the beginning.
But it has to be very clear: the OSM community created and owns the OSM data, and we control the terms on which it can be used, we have not been “already paid for it”.
Hopping off the soap box, I believe it is now understandable why complete alignment of goals cannot be expected. For “joe open data” google is a just as valid member of the open data community as OSM. google may even fit the open data model better: consumes and produces non-open products from it. We are just the crazies that spend our own time producing something free.