Using OpenStreetMap on a daily basis

Posted by Zethradon on 9 July 2013 in English (English)

I have been a serious user of OpenStreetMap for less than six months, and I am proud to recently have achieved my one hundredth contribution to the project. I really love the OpenStreetMap project, and I would like to replace my daily usage of Google Maps with OpenStreetMap.

But it just seems I cannot.

I'll give a few concrete examples why, humbly hoping that my words can encourage changes to the main website.

First point: searching. I have OpenStreetMap zoomed in to some region of Montreal, Canada. I input "café", looking for a coffee shop. I get results from Nominatim, inviting me to visit a village in Brazil named "Café" or even the "Café point" in Antarctica. While these search results awaken my globetrotter's desire to explore the world, they frustrate me at the same time. Why couldn't Nominatim priorize results from the bounding box or surrounding? Why can't OpenStreetMap show me results on the map like the OverPass API does, performing a search on the tag amenity=cafe and showing the results on the map?

Second point: accessing POI information. I cannot click on point of interests (POI) to get more info about them. Why do we input address, business hours and phone numbers on shops and restaurants if the map cannot easily display this information to the user? Why do I have to show the map's data in order to have information on a point of interest?

Third point: maximum zoom level. Some area are densely populated, and OpenStreetMap's current zoom level is not enough to see all details of the map. This is really unfortunate. Example: What are the restaurant surrounding the Hard Rock Café on this map? I have to use the editor to be able to zoom and see all data.

Fourth point: sharing a point of interest. There should be an easy way to do that. I have found a (complicated) way to do it, which is all but obvious to newcomers. Here is how:

  1. Using the layer icon at the top right of the map, I select "Browse Map Data";
  2. I select the object I want to share (which is not always possible; sometimes it is "hidden" behind a residential area or similar);
  3. I click on "Details"
  4. On the resulting page, I click on "View way on larger map"
  5. I get an URL similar to this that I can share:

Fifth point: routing. Why is there absolutely no routing implemented on the main OpenStreetMap website? This is I concede a naïve question, as it might be simply because of limited server resources. Once we have our new servers, is this something we want to implement, as a community?

I really like the OpenStreetMap project, and I dream to be able to use it as a primary map instead of Google Maps. I feel resolving these issues would bring me many steps closer to making that dream come true.

Comment from huonw on 9 July 2013 at 05:08

Routing seems to be planned/in progress:

We have extended the donation drive by £32500 to bring forward additional planned hardware upgrades. (blog announcement)

  • Routing Servers (
  • [...]

Comment from SimonPoole on 9 July 2013 at 05:31

There is ongoing work on your questions 2, 3 and 5.

As to question 1) searching for Café, Montreal will give you the desired results, and nominatim does AFAIK take the current viewbox in to account, however it is primarily an address search and not a POI locator.

A more general remark: while we are not very clear about it, is mainly about collecting and editing our data and not about providing services to end-users. On the other hand it is naturally the primary place our contributors and other end users go for such services.

Service development on the main site, adding a POI display and routing, is for the above reasons mainly thought as adding further tools for mappers and not as a google maps look-a-like. Deplyoment of such additional serives is not just dependent on more funds for hardware, we need volunteers to actually look after whatever we choose to add to the main site.

Comment from ab_fab on 9 July 2013 at 07:36


Tools do exist, but they are not (yet) gathered at domain.

Second point : Accessing POI information

One nice tool exists but its coverage is not perfect, and source code is not open (yet) : LizPOI

Third point : Maximum zoom level

This point is adressed by other rendering toolchains. For example which goes two steps further (zoom 20)

Fourth point : Sharing POI

You should consider to use the uMap tool Maybe not as straightforward as you would expect. Overpass Turbo can be used upstream to query the OSM database and export data ready for use in uMap.

Fifth point : Routing

As the points above, routing is not implemented @ However, the use of the osrm interface is pretty nice already, with cool features to share your results

Comment from FraMauro on 9 July 2013 at 08:25


You can also use Openlinkmap.

Using that site you can click on the POIs (your second point) to show the information. On the lower part of the "bubble" that you have when you click on a POI you have several options. For example you can have a second level of details (intuitively is called "More Details").

You can also quickly have a link (your fourth point). There are three possibilities: * "Permalink" gives a link to the POI using Openlinkmap * "Details" gives a link to the POI page (the same you get with your procedure) * "HTML-Code" gives the code to embed the map in a HTML file

Comment from CycleStreets on 9 July 2013 at 08:53

Why couldn't Nominatim priorize results from the bounding box or surrounding?

Turns out this isn't always what you want. On the CycleStreets website we try to take this into account, but it's difficult as you have to take into account context.

Suppose you are on the train from Cambridge to London, and you type in 'Downing Street' (which is a famous street in London). It comes up with Downing Street near where the train happens to be, rather than the more famous Downing Street. Which did you want? It's hard for an app to know.

Comment from Vincent de Phily on 9 July 2013 at 09:41

Some of these are listed in the top 10 tasks on the wiki. In particular, I find overpass's clickable POIs page quite usefull, it's a proof-of-concept originaly expected to go on the main page, I'm not sure why progress seems stalled.

Comment from chillly on 9 July 2013 at 15:52

People constantly compare OSM and Google maps but they are not aimed at the same audience. Google maps is a hanger for adverts. The fact that they help you find places that may have paid to advertise with Google just encourages more ads and more clicks. The OSM website is about gathering and improving geo data that can be displayed as a map amongst other things. This is why many people do not like the landing page as mostly map, it would IMO be better as a portal to editing and using OSM data with a full-page map just one click away.

Unlike Google maps et al. anyone can take the lovely OSM data and do wonderful things with it, and people do. We just don't tell people about it because of the fixation with a map on the OSM landing page. The landing page tempts people into making this comparison and disappoints people all too often.

To expect ordinary folks to penetrate the jungle that is the wiki to find useful stuff is a triumph of hope over reason.

Comment from CloCkWeRX on 9 July 2013 at 21:39

I would love to see a number of these on the primary ui - the comments about 'map' vs editing portal seem t o be a red herring. I would more than tolerate a uri which presented a ui like you describe - it would bolster the switch2osm argument a lot!

Would be interesting to add wire frames of what that layout could look like - 'developers' links for data tools and neat api stuff, 'help' pointing to a definitive tagging guide/polished tutorials ala, and much of the functionality of openlinkmap in the main ui. I would go further than openlinkmap and present the 'advanced properties' type ui, as per potlatch, in a popup should a user click on a poi - adding a name or house number should be trivial, if the object is mapped already

Login to leave a comment