OpenStreetMaps Turns 10. Everything Is Awesome.

The navigable map below(*1) — a tile extract of my stomping grounds — is nothing special.




You see embedded maps like this all the time, and despite the enormous stacks of technology and data that make it happen, it has become somewhat pedestrian.

But this map represents something special.

It is the culmination of a set of tools that provide enormous potential for software developers and entrepreneurs, leveraging an astonishing volume of data entered by thousands of individuals and organizations.

Getting it running encompassed many tools, but is a relatively straightforward process-

Voila, a tile-based map. Currently it is image-based tiles, though some tools promise vector outputs. Exciting times.

So big deal, right? You can just drop a Google Maps instantiation on the page and call it a day.

Here’s the thing about the stack of technology above: I can do literally anything with that data, whether mapping every tree in the region or rearranging the roads into a hypothetical ideal urban utopia. I can do anything with the presentation, including and excluding whatever elements I desire, presented in whatever fantastic way imagined.

The content is unbounded, and expression or individual use isn’t restricted to some superficial colors and overlays.

I can do anything with the consumption, including keeping its use completely private, unseen and unmetered and unbilled by any corporations that may have ulterior motives.

That is the power of OpenStreetMap, and it’s the reason why it is an important project. Mapping and local have become incredibly important, and some products have found themselves precariously and unprofitably sharecropping on other people’s lands.

OpenStreetMap gives you the power to work your own lands, on your own terms, for your own purposes.

It’s a great project, so happy birthday to it.

And on the topic of data quality, there is an interesting tool that allows you to compare the data as it was in 2007, to how it is today. Onwards and upwards.

*1 – The map won’t appear if you’re visiting the page over SSL with some browsers, as my adhoc tileserver does not serve encrypted and some browsers rightly bar mixed content.