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When I first heard about an attempt to create a map of the world usable by everyone, I probably thought something like "uh, this is not going to work ever". But somehow I was intrigued anyway and kept following it a little. And yes it was a daunting task, but the founders of openstreetmap just started.
In a talk the speaker made a point that this project was successful only because they chose
"The simplest thing that could possibly work"
as the data model. There is no elevation in the data of any point. That decision reduced complexity to a large extent. And so they "just started". A lot of people contributed to the dataset, but also to hosting, software, tools and amazing new uses of geo-data.
A gallery of nice examples
A side by side view of maps from openstreetmap, google, and others in different styles
Wnen I moved to the place I'm living now in 2007 the osm map around here was still quite sparse. So I went ahead on bicycle with my trusty gps logger and a notebook and a camera. For about four years I regularly added points to terrain uncharted. I got to know the area quite well. And I got an impression what it takes for each and everyone contributing to this giant database of tagged geo-data.
I do use openstreetmap.org data. It can be downloaded and used while being offline. No need for a data connection (via phone or wireless) while being on tour. This in itself I consider very impressive. Of course my device has to render the map. But that is actually an advantage. I can change what data I want to see and how it is presented on the fly. With online services you have to content with the map tiles you are served.
This talk was impressive. It illustrated how determination of a group, free software, volunteers around the world and a set of available tools makes a difference for many people on the planet. Highly recommended.
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