Beware of fake beaches (Pokémon Go)

To be fair, OSM received a massive contribution when Pokemon Go players found out that OSM was being used for the game map and monster spawn types.

I myself started contributing to OSM because of Pokemon Go.

As long as they are making legitimate contributions, this is a good thing, but we definitely need to keep an eye out for users abusing the map.

We’ll have occasional spikes in activity that correspond to Pokemon Go updates, but once these users realize that Niantic only updates their maps every year or so, they start to lose interest. Consequently, any vandalism from those trying to game the system will also dwindle.


You’re taliking of edits i guess

Yes, the research paper I linked goes into specifics for just the country of South Korea:

In South Korea, the #contributors and #edits to OSM per day both increased more than 10-fold immediately following the launch of Pokémon GO (Figure 1). In the two weeks prior to the game’s release, the average #contributors was 15 and the average #edits was 4,028. In comparison, in the week following release, the average #contributors (584) was 40-times higher and the average #edits (70,345) was 17-times higher. However, both #contributors and #edits returned to more typical levels after around 1½ months. One explanation for this drop-off is that the new contributors had finished mapping the locations where they frequently played the game.

A similar spike in the number of contributors and edits can be observed at a worldwide scale.
I can guarantee you that at least a decent number of them stuck around to continue adding on to the map even years later.

Based on my lastest edits query: Changesets by BoomShakalaka86 | OpenStreetMap

Not sure if the user has already been reported though.

I recommend humour and a fatherly approach to this childish misconduct. It’s a phase, it will pass.

I remember being on a holiday and worried that my kids would lose their way. They couldn’t use regular maps if their life depended on it. Maps were for old people. But they never got lost, because… they used Pokemon Go.
(That’s how I got hooked…)

But we never ever were clever enough to rig the map.


Looks like no-one has even mentioned it to them.

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Sometimes users revert without leaving a changeset comment.

I’ve sent an email to the DWG and reverted the changesets.

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I’m unaware of a financial contribution from Niantic to OSM, but if they’d like to forward some beer vouchers for the work I did doing their customer support for them this morning I can let them know where to send them :slight_smile:


OSM in the news Pokémon Go players are altering public map data to catch rare Pokémon | Ars Technica


I stumbled and reported a user adding both fake and real beaches in Japan. I removed the fake parts in Changeset: 151008230 | OpenStreetMap and left them a message. The existing beaches could use another look though. The quality is pretty bad.

@ivanbranco I’m a reporter and journalist at The Washington Post in the U.S. Please send me an email at


Great article @jonathan_edwards thanks for getting all sides of the story first hand. It is a shame Niantic is not commenting directly.


I hope the paywall will limit the number of would be vandals this will inspire to cause new headaches, but the headline alone is probably enough to cause trouble.

I’m hopeful that the friendly folks in our community can steer any would-be vandals inspired by this into becoming lifelong legitimate contributors! :slightly_smiling_face:

I’ve never played Go, but I imagine there is at least some overlap in appeal with OSM mapping, as far as the “geo” aspect. Just a guess.


I’ve never played Go, but I imagine there is at least some overlap in appeal with OSM mapping, as far as the “geo” aspect. Just a guess.

Yes yes! that’s why I still play pogo. And pogo is also the reason I started mapping on OSM, and now I’m 2 million changes deep :sweat_smile:


Hello everyone,

I got informed that I’m accused to enter fake information on OSM.
As you may guess, I’m a more-or-less active PokémonGO player.
Therefore, most of my edits are PokémonGo related.

First of, please note that English is not my native language, so probably the “barrier language” is part of this case.

I want to lay down that I’m not owing you any kind of statement in these regards.
Rather I’d like to understand the problem.

Why I entered all these beaches?
First of, for my understanding, a beach not only is made of sand how you may understand this from knowing from your holiday beach. As you maybe know, in countries like Iceland or Croatia, gravel beaches are widespread. This opinion got confirmed by OSM, how a beach is defined exactly.

(Translation from German to English:
A beach is a shallow coastal or shoreline strip of sand or pebbles)

Secondly, I’ve checked all the existing and confirmed spawn areas in OSM to understand what’s considered a “beach” here. Quickly, my understandig got confirmed that also gravel beaches are fine.
I noticed in a town called “Salzburg” that there’s a river bank considered as beach. I’d love to link this “beach” in question, but I don’t know how to do.
So my conclusion was, that it’s also fine to have river banks as beaches.
It’s a given fact, that in the areas I edited, a lot of automated information is posted. Obviously a lot of things are basically wrong or incomplete.

One of my main areas I’m playing is having a lot of rivers and lakes so I checked on Google Maps (satellite view) where exactly these river banks are, and added those also as beaches. A lot of them I knew by myself, but didn’t know the exact shape of these river banks.
The same I did for lakes where I know there are areas called “Strandbad”. I guess the English one is “Bathing beach”? It’s an area where you can lay down for resting or whatever and you can access the lake.

Since I’m willing to improve my knowledge and have more accurate edits on OSM, please inform in a nice way what I did wrong exactly.

In my opinion, all the beaches I added are justified according to the above named reasons.

Thanks & cheers!


First, thanks for posting here and being willing to improve!

Some of your beaches might truly be beaches by OSM standards, but it is difficult to tell from satellite imagery. Not every bit of land next to water that is devoid of vegetation is a beach.

Here is some Bing imagery of an area you tagged natural=beach

I don’t think this qualifies. It appears that there is some sort of wall next to the water, and no loose surface.

Here is another example:


The German term Strandbad literally translates to beach-bath. It is widely used for managed bathing places. Perhaps because Strand (beach) sounds good in our ears? Nobody here would call that coastline a Strand (beach) though.

The other sample more contrived. There are at least three more beaches left for mapping in the close vicinity:

Personally, I’d only map a beach there if it has some notoriety at least with the locals AND is used for (sun-)bathing or resting at least. But such is not part of the documentation for use on openstreetmap?

PS: IIRC there was an issue with a prominent renderer recently, that showed umbrellas where beaches are mapped, thereby inciting people to squat in bird sanctuaries.

Regarding your example “Strandbad Kühnhausen”:

Indeed, the satellite photo makes it hard for a non-local to proof whether this is some beach or not.
On GoogleMaps, if you use the streetview icon in this area, you can see a 360 degree photo of the area in question. If you look up for photos of “Camping Wagner” or “Seewirt” in the village “Kühnhausen” you can quickly find tons of photos with people laying on this grass beach.

Based on my provided background information, would this still not qualify to be considered as beach?

The mentioned wall is just a quay wall to prevent the grass “beach” from erosion by the lake.