When the World Needs a Map, Give them a Database

Posted by jremillard on 19 February 2018 in English (English)

This was posted this week.

I think it is fair to say that it has upset people, myself included. OSM seems like it is doing fine. contributers are up, the servers are running well, ID is amazing, the state of the maps are cranking along, OSM is widely used, perhaps even essential, everything is all roses, full steam ahead….

When the World Needs a Map, Give them a Database

Ouch, that one hurts.

Then at the bottom …

The OpenStreetMap Foundation Culture

Ouch again.

We need to think about our relationship with our commercial/non profit partner organizations. At a high level, we need each other and strong relationships should be a priority. However, inevitably there are situations where they are in conflict. For example, OSM’s refusal to offer paid services to support its considerable infrastructure needs seems like a clearcut example of our partner organizations wanting to OSM to keep off of their turf, weak, and dependent on them and their donations. Please, don’t blame Mapbox, this isn’t Mapbox’s fault, they are doing a great job, and I am delighted that they are so successful. But, it is hard for me to understand how MapBox can raise 164 million USD last year and the OSMF doesn’t have enough money for any full time system administrators or software engineers. The US OSM chapter, is in the same boat. They are going to be hiring a director next year (yes!!), but the plan is to have the role focused on SOTM, outreach, mapping parties, blogging, twitter, and other safe/non-core activities (bad!!).

If you care about this, please join the OSMF and vote. Also, the US OSM chapter is voting now.

Comment from SimonPoole on 19 February 2018 at 11:25

Mapbox can raise $164 million because Softbank believes there is a non-zero probability that it will get a billion or two back (likely via a trade sale),

It really has nothing to do with financing OSMs day to day operations or how easy or hard it is to find suitable sources of funding for the OSMF.

Comment from ika-chan! on 19 February 2018 at 14:33

Another problem I have noticed is how hard it is to clone the infrastructure that powers OSM for similar projects. Judging from my progress at!/Fantasy_maps_with_OSM_software (currently delayed due to other commitments), it is far from as easy as installing MediaWiki, another FOSS project.

Comment from SomeoneElse on 19 February 2018 at 18:49

Silly question, but what does “STOM” stand for here? This suggests various possibilities, the only vaguely “geo” one of which is “safe transport of munitions” which seems unlikely…

Comment from Rovastar on 19 February 2018 at 19:59

You should practice your typos more SomeoneElse. I guess it is SOTM ==State Of The Map.

Comment from Nakaner on 19 February 2018 at 21:51

If OSMF offered commercial services, I had to move all its servers to new data centres and pay the prices which were usual for hosting. This means, before OSMF starts earning money it has to invest a lot. Where would this money come from?

In addition, a central provider of OSM based services would harm the competition. There is some competition between the companies offering OSM services but they compete less by price but more by design, features, support and quality.

Comment from jremillard on 21 February 2018 at 02:22

Hi Thanks for commenting.

  • I fixed the SOTM. Thanks for pointing that out.

I don’t see any reason why the servers would need to move. OSMF would still be a non-profit, the money would be used to support the project, and we would simply be asking for donations for heavy tiles or Nominatim use.

The foundation needs to have money to purchase computers, bandwidth, electricity, (and most importantly) system system administrators. The vibrant commercial space that is downstream validates the tremendous value that is inherent to our data. I don’t see any reason that we should not be capturing some of that value to self fund the project. Selling services would also avoid the conflict of interest problems we currently have with pure donations model. It seems really simple to me.

Comment from dikkeknodel on 26 February 2018 at 12:17

I was heavily touched by the argument about the OSM ecosystem, where companies are making money by repackaging OSM data. When I see that companies are using OSM for paid services I can get kind of annoyed, especially when they are asking money for additional map coverage. Volunteers are giving their time to detail the data and keep it up to date, and companies are actually monetising that effort, additional map coverage cost nearly zero effort for those companies.

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