Overturemaps.org - big-businesses OSMF alternative

This is legally largely unexplored territory, but is is highly unlikely that there is going to be anything enforceable here. But as said it is largely unexplored, fwiw there might be even an advantage to OSM data not having copyright protection in the US.

You shouldn’t be feeding the trolls (I realize that you may have forgotten)…


Apparently I’m speaking too much sense for the trolls and they’re marking several of my posts on this thread as spam.


The current default is to automatically hide a post after it is reported, but you can still view it by clicking on it. While this generally makes sense it makes it very easy for somebody to be disruptive. I expect the moderators will restore things rsn.

[fixed now]


(quoting Michal Migurski)

As @mikelmaron says, this is a bit of a tired trope. I don’t think I’ve been to a pub mapping event since 2008. (I’ve been to OSM London pub meetups, but they tend to be more tech and community-focused.)

The map in Britain has been largely built by “lone rangers” - enthusiasts of many stripes (tech, civic, ramblers, roadgeeks, railfans, cyclists, or just people who like maps), working significantly from survey but also from open data sources. The amount of post-2010 mapping done by people who meet in a pub is single-digit percentage at best, very possibly sub-1%.

There are clearly reasons why the US map hasn’t developed this way, but it’s less clear that it couldn’t. Yes, the US is big, but the corollary of that is that Wyoming and New Mexico are also pretty empty therefore don’t need much mapping. Small towns in Colorado have as many computer literate people with civic pride as small towns in Cheshire. “Too big” doesn’t explain why London is better mapped than NYC.

Which kind of brings me back to the earlier point. I think Overture Maps can, and possibly will, make a success of a map combining AI-derived features with public datasets. It will have roads and rivers and broad-brush landuse. I am not convinced they will get community, ‘soft’ infrastructure (footpaths, micro landuse) of the sort OSM does so well, nor POIs of the sort Google does so well. And until they manage that, they’ve just created a new version of the TomTom basemap with different licensing conditions.

But I’ve been wrong a million times before, so who knows.


Hey everyone, nice to see replies to my tweets here. To address one line of critique in this thread, re: old/tired/cliché tropes: literally no one is more exhausted by these tropes than I am but that doesn’t make them untrue. Seeing the same pattern of discourse repeat itself for decades in a project that is otherwise a significant success is really unfortunate!

Continuing to speak for myself as an individual, it makes me happier and less grumpy to put my effort into tangible forward progress on complex or difficult group efforts. Sometimes they include core OSM things, like the 18 months I spent in 2020–2021 getting a single small PR merged into the website repo or the year-plus I put into collaborating with Maggie, Heather, Arnalie, Steve, Rob, Rubén, and many others on the LCCWG moderation recommendation. Mostly though I find that energy and reward in efforts like Overture. I hope this sheds some additional light on why a bunch of smart and informed people at these partner companies decided to create a new organization in the LF instead of starting at OSMF.


No, that doesn’t shed light for the smart and informed people here on why a new organization was created. You’re still painting this in us-vs-them fashion. A pattern of discourse is not a reality, especially when you feed that discourse. Not to say that you do not have strong points about how much work a PR takes or the challenge of moderation. It’s just incredibly selective of viewpoints and work in OSM/F.

The more I learn about Overture through conversations with people directly involved now, the more I see it’s about doing something necessarily different than and complementary to OSM. I’m sure more light will come out about that soon.


As practical action: I believe we do solutions, and fast (already by 2023, their release date), to mitigate the technical gaps and put this under OSMF infra, not outside. Don’t need to be perfect, but needs to happen, even if read-only generated version from real data/metadata. Some things might be easier than others, but continuation of gap not only massively will make new volunteer collaborations outside these companies go to Overture Map Foundation (because of usability), but even part of existing collaborators directly on OpenStreetMap will move to Overture Map.

Bit more context

They do say they do not try to be a community, and are focused on production-ready data use (normalize schema, cleaning for vandalism, etc). However, while they might be perceived here as mere competition to OpenStreetMap, they seem to be advertised by news media as open data competition to Google Maps related services. I even noticed here in Brazil, notices like this one (which, by the way, are the type of tech influencer I would ask to promote OSM for developers):

Triva: "mapas apertos"@pt = "open maps"@en.

So, even if they don’t say they’re trying to be a community, the fact they will start of with small part of heavy collaborators from OpenStreetMap (the ones from roads) and have an normalized output to please developers of geo data (not just map), assuming the obvious fact that to compete with Google Maps, they would need to start collecting amenities from massive user base out there’s, then, how much collaborators they actually would have? My argument here is that the fact that “OpenStreetMap collaborators” not appear (and it was a way to advertise OSM exist) is actually less problematic than the likelihood of them making it easier to accept data directly on them. Their license already is free like OSM, and is backed by a trustworthy organization, Linux Foundation. And they are even likely to provide very well documented APIs with low fees at negative margins of profit to target Google Maps and related services (not OpenStreetMap).

I didn’t do the math, but outside Europe, the coverage of OpenStreetMap is lower, and they’re going for it. What I know is that Brazil is over 80% of the area of the entire Europe, yet data dumps are less than Germany, so while my account is new (5 October) I was already discussing here with well planned ahead, imports and synchronizations could easily get top contributions. The way this Overture Map Foundation seems to be aiming is making a similar approach, both at their working groups (data schema and conflagration), and seems to be targeting at world level. So, by inference, even with less perfect care like tooling for a country like mine, they’re in very few years will be able to not need to show “OpenStreetMap collaborators” at all in special in counties in Global South like India, but before this they’re likely to stop all together to get amenities from OSM (as the data model might shift over time).

So, without making this overlong, yes, I do believe we should make the technical gaps fast. Their “Global Entity Reference System” likely to provide at least identifiers for abstract concepts (like Wikidata Qs for an specific amenity that will not change over time), so this cannot be done without add something into data model, however other parts like normalized version would be feasible to do with existing tools without need to change the original data

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it makes me happier and less grumpy to put my effort into tangible forward progress on complex or difficult group efforts […]

I’m sorry, @migurski, but I interpret that as “Long ago I got fulfillment with OSM, but now it bores me; and now Overture fulfills me”. Which doesn’t shed any light on the motives of MAMT (Meta+Amazon+Microsoft+TomTom) to band up together and antagonize OSM(F).


Sounds very different from Sweden. I have never been accosted by anyone during all my mapping adventures.


My guess is that the hype and forwardness will be in the AI companies favor. Training with OSM data plus other data on highres orthography and outputting to a database will most probably not be protected by obdl if it is ever challenged in court.
Paying editors to feed the AI incrementally improving training data seems like a good idea to me :man_shrugging:

You’re right, I apologize for making my post sound too much like a personal fulfillment story.

Individuals and orgs who participate in open mapping are doing so to make something tangible happen to advance their goals, like improving map quality in a region/category for FB or improving some slice of tech stability and community conversation for me. Many companies beyond MAMT have spent years making OSM work for their needs. With engineering staff communicating and changing jobs between them, the various efforts all start to look the same after a while and cry out for a shared utility/commodity standards approach. We find that OSMF has not prioritized these areas in its actions so we create other avenues to be involved in open mapping.


From reading the various press releases, there’s lots of mentions of companies / businesses contributing to the Overture Map, but nothing about individuals?

Will you & me have the option / ability to work on Overture, or would we “just” be working on OSM, with our work maybe, or maybe not, being included?

What happens with regard to the data that we’ve been given special permission to import & use under oDBl? Will that all have to be deleted before it hits Overture?

There has been no indication that OM (anybody noticed that) will use anything other than the ODbL as a distribution license for OSM derivatives and I don’t quite see why we should be wasting time thinking about OMs problems to start with.

PS: importing ODbL data in to OSM has always been a dreadful idea, but that is completely offtopic here.


That sounds wonderful. Yes, it can be very different here. In any area without lots of pedestrian traffic, a mapper doing a field survey can easily attract menacing stares, or worse, depending on one’s appearance and demeanor. It helps to pretend to be playing Pokémon Go or go out confidently in full corporate regalia. :smirk:


So I made a dedicated post here Proposal discussion to submit for OSMF: normalized/stricter read-only version of OpenStreetMap data focused on an action not related at all with license comments here. Maybe not the best title, and even the examples of automated changed might not be that good, but while I was thinking about since yesterday, Simon even mentioned:

So I do think this could be possible and even willing to help on it for free. But definelly would be easier if know this in advance, not between 1 to 6 months of release based their FAQ. But anyway, still feasible.

This “Global Entity Reference System” mention is by far, what I think is the only change over just “OpenStreetMap Data” + “data cleaning” + “fill data from other sources”.

While it is not clear what this quasi-buzzword means (is the entire schema?) at minimum identifiers for persistent abstracts concepts (something such as Wikidata Qs as we use on OSM today) like “(Google) Places ID”, some sort of internal persistent code to identify administrative boundaries that never change, things like very big roads that even with Relations is not viable have single ID, etc. Abstracts concepts that OSM itself (not relying on something external like Wikidata) could explain (even if mostly an alias for the real underlining thing).

So, what they’re providing is unlikely to be not what @rtnf is assuming as very advanced (like linked data, RDF, etc) but just the bare minimum that is the most important to archive that: some sort of unique identifiers. And yes, this makes a lot of sense for data conflagration, because it is how someone could update data again with imports and exports.

This is something I think would be worth, but not mentioned the created post because it is a different issue. Also, OSM could have edited versions of its own data without this and still be perfectly usable, but OMF simply cannot exist without its own identifiers (they would not even be able to rely on OSM Relations). So, despite this fancy name, they badly need one, they have no option but to have such IDs even for beta versions.

I totally agree with that. We are long over due for some kind of centralized curation system for the more popular, clearly defined tags that most people agree on. Stalemates are bound to happen sometimes, but we shouldn’t be going out of our way to make them happen by not having actual resolution processes beyond automatically defaulting to whomever has had their account the longest or whatever.

I appreciate that and the fact that your willing to at least acknowledge where the pain points are. That said, my comment was less about my personal feelings and more about the facts as they are in reality and on the ground. I don’t deny that I’m frustrated by the dismal state of the Tiger Data in the United States. But that doesn’t negate the fact that there are no community based efforts being made here to do anything about it, at least not that I’m aware of.

At the end of the day I can both be frustrated by the current state of things and your assertion that humans commonly cooperate to review automated data and imports can still be patently false. At least it is in the United Sates and most of the rest of the world outside of Europe :man_shrugging:

I do genuinely appreciate the candor though :heart:

I 100% agree with that. The absolutism is totally toxic and does nothing to retain users. That doesn’t negate the fact that there are certain groups within the community that have their own interests and preferred ways of doing things though. There’s clearly cultural differences between the mappers in Europe and ones in the United States. That’s fine. I’m not going to claim that users in Africa or China have the exact same priorities then me as an American or what works in China will automatically transfer over to the United States. Let alone visa versa. That’s just not how things work :man_shrugging:

Sure. They have done some high quality work in some places. IMO though a lot of this discussion is or at least should be as much about identifying where the problems in the system are as it is just patting ourselves on the back for all the good we’ve done.

Look at this way, we can point to the hundreds of times that things worked perfectly that probably had nothing to do with why MAMT created OvertureMap, or we can be honest about what got us here. Which we know had something to do with poor quality data and a lack of review. OvertureMap isn’t building things like QA tools and curated tags into their system by default for nothing. It’s 100% because those are things that OpenStreetmap, including HOT, don’t currently do a good job at. This isn’t magic. Everything they are implementing in their system is probably something OpenStreetMap doesn’t currently do well.


It takes a village. What’s does that prompt when people sign up for an account say, “Focus on the content of the comment. Not the person who wrote it”? :man_shrugging:

Totally. I’m always surprised by how many private driveways and back roads Bing Maps was able to go down in the United States without them running into trouble. The fact that their cars look somewhat official probably has a lot to do with that.


To this point, here’s Microsoft talking about the work they were doing to conflate data sources with OSM back in 2017:

I don’t have any inside knowledge to know if this particular project is being used in connection with Overture, but it’s a pretty obvious need for anyone working with datasets that don’t share a common stable identifier scheme – or that lack one altogether.

Conflation has long been important for routing use cases. For one thing, you need to be able to match traffic and incident data to the road network. OpenLR is a linear referencing system that TomTom helped standardize; it later found its way into OSM-based products (including by my employer Mapbox).