In this month’s edition of Map Mavin Methods, we’ll take a tangent from our normal routine of addressing a particular tool within the platform to announce that we are live with our own OSM tile server! What is OSM you might ask? Fear not, this article will explain it all and showcase the benefits our exciting new shift in basemaps.
OpenStreetMap is, “a collaborative project to create a free editable map of the world.” Commonly referred to as OSM, it has been dubbed the “Wikipedia of maps”, and we’d have to say we agree. In fact, when created by Steve Coast in the UK in 2004, it was inspired by the success of Wikipedia and the predominance of proprietary map data in the UK and elsewhere. The founding and continued growth of OpenStreetMap has been, since day one, motivated by restrictions on use or availability of map information across much of the world, and the advent of inexpensive, portable satellite navigation devices.
Since then, it has grown, “to over 2 million registered users, who can collect data using manual survey, GPS devices, aerial photography, and other free sources.” This collection of crowdsourced data is then made available under the Open Database License.
So what does this all have to do with Map Mavin? Great question! There are several answers, all of which benefit our users. First off is the benefit of having an open source basemap that anyone can edit. Rather than being restricted to the “rules of the road” set by the particular company owning your proprietary basemap (as we had in the past), the open source nature of OSM allows anyone to take a “look under the hood” at the code base and make new plug-ins or even entire add-on programs if desired. This means an endless list of tried-and-true community-created tools exists that can be integrated seamlessly into our platform.
Another key benefit is also tied to OSM’s crowdsourced nature. With a proprietary basemap, you may well be relying on that company and that company only to make crucial changes and updates to the map. This is especially pertinent in post-disaster areas that have been subject to conflicts or natural disasters. With OSM’s millions of users and loyal following, crucial and often lifesaving updates are made within hours of changes that have occurred. With our own OSM tile server, we now have the ability to initiate manual updates over areas in need of the most recent information.
But there’s more! A small but welcomed change: multiple languages! OSM uses the languages of a given region when looking over a particular area. While this might sound like an inconvenience at first, it means that everyone involved in a given project will be seamlessly on the same page, without a need for translation or cross-referencing. Nice!
Finally, having OSM as our base-map brings to the table another huge leap for Map Mavin: multiple themes! With OSM you’ll have the chance to change the theme of your basemap to the look you feel best fits our project. We look forward to adding more and more OSM themes as time goes on.
If you have any other questions regarding OSM or anything related to Map Mavin in general, feel free to reach out to Fletcher at the contact information below: