How organizations can host their own maps

It’s the myriad of smaller non-commercial organizations I am thinking of. I’d rather they spent their usually small budgets on their real life mission rather than on map systems.


My guess is that the cost of a map server for a small local charity would be around €10 a month (less if they already have a web server holding their website). That might still be too much of course - but’s “standard” map tiles are not the only map layer made with OSM data, and if they want to choose a background map they probably don’t want one that is updated on the fly with all updates to OSM data.

Your forgot the cost to implement this, and availability of that. In my local area, there is only one commercial provider that uses OSM data. They do follow the licence by the letter. Their service is a subscription though, not a free-lance one-time-setup and 10 € after that.


They would be overpaying by an order of magnitude :smiley:

Of course, it is only that cheap if you have the technical know-how.


And you have an internet provider that charges you $0/mo, and free hardware (including spares) and free power… Laptops aren’t built to run 24/7, and every hardware will die some day.

Having said that, it’s still an interesting concept that could possibly be implemented (talking of charities) in a VM in some office computer (which then should not be powered off :sunglasses:)

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I’ve been looking for something that could fit onto the switch2osm site that covers vector tiles. There’s a PR that includes this but it’s not really at the level of detail that’s needed. Using a bunch of existing resources I wrote this, but I’m not 100% convinced that the shortbread schema (which it uses) has enough detail or that Versatiles Colorful is necessarily the best example style.

It’d be great to have a PMTiles option there. All the other Switch2osm guides are selfhosted and don’t need e.g. an Amazon account that you need to keep below free limits, so this won’t be for everyone, but it’ll be great for a subset of people.

This reminds me of the Apache Baremaps project that aims to make the whole setup process more turnkey for folks who don’t need extreme configurability. Yes, it even has an osm-carto clone for vector tiles. There are probably enough solutions out in the broader ecosystem to pivot switch2osm to vector tiles if desired.

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I don’t think that it’ll be a pivot, it’ll be two** different approaches in different areas of the same site. See here and here for what I wrote previously about that. Perhaps an introduction could say “if you already have an Amazon account, want a map that covers the whole world, isn’t frequently going to be used [to stay in Amazon’s free layer], then follow these instructions…” and “want a map style that looks like the maps on Follow these”.

** or more, as there are numerous mutually incompatible vector tile approaches.


I replied elsewhere to an academic institution that the “cost to implement” was around “one night’s student homework”. Anyone familiar enough with computer concepts that they already have a website that they want to add maps to ought to be able to follow something on this page (or be able to pay another person to follow it).


These things are only required if you need continuously updating map tiles. For most applications like this, it’s probably fine to have a planet file that’s months or even years old. So all you would have to do is render a planet one time and upload it.

What is lacking, in my opinion, is a step-by-step recipe for how to run your own cheapest-possible (i.e. vector) map for end-user applications like this. If the foundation was looking for “things that are appropriate for a microgrant”, that’s low-hanging fruit1 that would provide immense value to end users and also decrease reliance on the public tiles.

On this note, OSM US is right now hosting a continuously updating vector-tile planet in the Americana schema (OpenMapTiles with some minor adjustments) that anyone can use. In that setup, OSM US pays for the planet hosting and rendering, and users can connect to it and they only pay for their own usage (bandwidth etc).

We’re working on instructions that people can use to stand up their own vector tile server using this method, but that only gets you the tile server, not the complete styled and rendered map.

1 American-English idiom meaning "useful thing which can be done easily"

Even with a good tutorial, someone doing that for the first time will likely be at it for several hours. At normal rates for IT contractors, that’s a few hundred dollars.

In contrast, some tiny organization’s proportional impact on the OSMF’s operations budget is likely a few cents at most.

From an altruistic perspective, it’s hard to find more cost-effective ways to make the world better than spending cents to save someone else hundreds of dollars.


Suppose you’re in charge of a low-traffic website for a small organisation, and you want to have a free map to show where the three branch offices are or where the running group meets. You want the map to be OSM-based but don’t want your users to see potentially offensive vandalism. You’ve maybe even found this community forum because you were concerned about the vandalism and wanted to learn more.

Isn’t the best option for this sort of user to go with one of the commercial providers that have decent QA process and a free tier for low volume usage?

Switch2OSM has a list though it doesn’t have much detail and the Wiki has a more (and maybe too) detailed list. It also calls the update frequency “latency” and probably lacks a warning that more frequent updates aren’t necessarily a good thing… what neither list tells you is how much QA the organisations behind the tiles do (i.e. how likely vandalism is to show).


It might well be - but free offers from commercial providers are always offered on the basis that some of those users will end up “locked in” and will end up paying commercial rates.

My main frustration isn’t actually with small charities etc., actually - it is with large commercial organisations who choose to use OSM “standard” tiles to save money - and then complain to the OSM project (with a sense of entitlement about an SLA that they don’t have).


In my 15+ years in this project (of two decades), I’ve seen a lot of progress. “Host one’s own maps” is a (usually grueling) technical challenge for everybody, even today. Really impressive simplified (but by no means yielding simple results) toolchains being established, as well as a nice glide-path of vector tile development and robust hosting (and licensing, payment) strategies are working.

Paths to do this are shorter, simplified, improving and diversifying. Such efforts are to be applauded. Terms like “low hanging fruit” truly DO apply to those who apply themselves to implementing these sorts of toolchains. Everything is not free (as in beer), everything is not easy. But with a bit of time, effort, money, agreement and sweat, this can be done, I say that because it IS getting done. And it is getting easier and cheaper and more technically streamlined. I am in awe of us and such accomplishments in our project. Investments in OSM pay serious dividends.

OSM really is always improving. It is awe-inspiring.

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I am a bit at a loss. A small organization that is not in map systems in my eyes is not the audience of the Switch2OSM programme as I understand it from reading up there. The programme targets IT professionals, some charities may be lucky and have an aspiring one as somebodies nephew, most won’t and will have to find a contractor:

And if such organisations actually more into maps than pinning the location of their office on an OSM-Carto styled slippy map, chances are, that OSM-Carto is not a good choice for them. Then they’d need to self host regardless of cost.

The single local provider in my area sets the free limit to 120.000 map tile requests per month. Lowest paid programme starts at 19 € per month. So just two times the bare bones self hosting mentioned above for a decent virtual server. Their cartography is quite nice. They are member to the OSMF and contribute to maplibre. I like the idea of the OSMF funding the gathering of data that is the base for a teeming after market of third party consumers a.k.a. commercial resellers.

No mention of how they do with vandalism. The topic perhaps not surfaced enough in past history? But might be a valid case for setting apart offers of consumers in the future?

The thing is to just show where your location is you don’t need 90% of what the OSMFs tile service does, or any other one fwiw.

You just need a couple of pre-generated raster or vector tiles. We’ve (SOSM) been offering this for raster tiles for quite a long time see OpenStreetMap rendered map tiles download by SOSM (I’ve floated the idea of using these to run a “static” tile service to low overhead avoid the vandalism issues, could be something that we will start providing).

And for the org that just wants a location pin or similar we have OpenStreetMap Resources for Web Developers - HedgeDoc