Living Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of GIS

pp 1-5

Date: Latest Version


  • Carsten KeßlerAffiliated withCenter for Advanced Research of Spatial Information and Department of Geography, Hunter College, City University of New York Email author 


OpenStreetMap (http://​www.​openstreetmap.​org) is a community-driven “project that creates and distributes free geographic data of the world” (OpenStreetMap, 2015e).

Historical Background

Often referred to as the Wikipedia of maps, OpenStreetMap was started as an alternative to the high-quality, but expensive, government datasets provided by the Ordnance Survey in the UK. Steve Coast, a physics student at the University College London at that time, first introduced the idea of a free street map based on GPS tracks provided by volunteers in 2004 (Gyford, 2004). The idea was quickly adopted by a growing international community. In summer 2006, the OpenStreetMap Foundation was registered as a legal entity responsible for the OpenStreetMap server infrastructure, fund raising, and potential liability issues. The first slippy map – an interactive web map that can be freely zoomed and panned – was generated from OpenStreetMap data in November 2006. An agreement with Yahoo! in December 2 ...

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