OpenStreetMap – Part 2: It’s Just a Databasse – The Services Are Elsewhere

This is part 2 of my post series on Openstreetmap. Before having had a closer look I always assumed that Openstreetmap was something similar like Google maps, just open, free (as in freedom) and not as privacy invading. While this is true, I was quite amazed to find out that the structure of the project is quite unlike that of commercial map services.

Let's have a look at Google maps and other popular map services first. These are usually integrated products, i.e. Google owns the program, the render the map, they own the database behind the maps and the information where shops, hotels etc. that are are put into the map.

Openstreetmap on the other hand first and foremost is only one thing: A database. Yes, when you go to you can see a map and do great things with it. But it's not as versatile as Google maps and others, perhaps, despite the routing capabilities that were recently added. And that's not it's intention anyway, it's sort of a technology demonstrator for the database. The applications that run on the Openstreetmap database are not developed by Openstreetmap, they are done by third parties. Openstreetmaps for Android (OSMAND) is a good example, it's not done by the entity known as Openstreetmaps. And Osmand is just one of many programs using the OSM database. OSM describes this in more detail in their FAQ so have a look here if you want to dig deeper.

And here's a link to a very long list of OSM-based services and a link to Android Apps that use OSM data of which OSMAND is just one. Lots of interesting stuff to discover there!