It’s Time to Make OpenStreetMap Your Only Street Map

Today at Telenav we’ve announced that we have acquired skobbler – an OpenStreetMap (OSM) navigation company based in Germany – for approximately $24 million. skobbler brings a super popular OSM navigation app and 80+ employees in Europe to Telenav, expanding our reach globally across many of our products, services and offices.

In case you aren’t familiar with it, OpenStreetMap is the worldwide wiki-map that anyone can edit. When I founded OSM nearly a decade ago, my vision was to create a map everyone could use and contribute to. No strings attached. I created OSM as a non-profit community project – no one owns it and none of the community members make money from editing it. It is built and managed by people just like you, updating their neighborhood maps from their phones and computers.

Current OSM map vs. Google Map of Sochi, Russia  where the 2014 Olympic Games begin on Feb. 7 (Thanks to Alastair Coote)

Current OSM map vs. Google Map of Sochi, Russia where the 2014 Olympic Games begin on Feb. 7
(Thanks to Alastair Coote)

Have others tried their hand at crowd-sourcing map data as well? Absolutely. Waze and Google – or, just Google now – provide similar mechanisms to improve their maps, based mostly on OSM’s innovations. With one big catch. It is very much their map. Not yours. (Just ask the developers who pay a lot of money to use it.)

OpenStreetMap is different. All of the quality data contributed is openly available – just like Wikipedia. So, anyone can download, experiment and play with it freely. It’s not locked up beyond your reach.

OSM is one of the world’s most active open and crowd-sourced projects with over 1.5 million registered editors (a number that has been doubling every year). It has grown exponentially faster than I could have ever imagined ten years ago. In fact, it has been a fantastic display map (map you can look at) for some time, mapped right down to trees and footpaths. We’ve seen many uses of OSM in that context, from mere pretty artifacts to stimulating visualizations. The quality of the map data has evolved so much that, in the past couple of years, developers like Foursquare, Pinterest and Uber have integrated OSM as a display map into their products (most likely as a way to get access to a more detailed map and to avoid those costly fees from Google).

Mountain terrain in Sochi, Russia where skiers and other athletes will compete.

Mountain terrain in Sochi, Russia where skiers and other athletes will compete.

Today, OSM is a repository of quality map data, with more coming in than going out. I want to change that. Now it is time to leapfrog the simple design use cases – the economically efficient background usage of the map. It’s time to take OSM and harness it for everyday navigation. That’s where the users are and where we can really make difference.

I’d like it to get OSM to seven billion contributors in the next year or two. The only real way to get there is to allow a significant amount of consumers to get their hands on the map. I want more mobile users to have the chance to navigate with it and provide feedback as they go. This feedback can be implicit in their GPS trails, or explicit in their feedback to us as they tell us where the map needs improvement.

Turn-by-turn navigation on our phones is the way most people in the world use maps today, and it takes incredible effort and work from companies like Telenav and skobbler to mold OSM in to something a consumer will get a thrill from using. That’s what we’re focused on: getting OSM in to the hands of the everyday person, so that it’s part of our daily lives.

While Wikipedia proved the crowd sourcing model, OpenStreetMap is about taking it to the next level, switching it into warp drive, turning up the volume, pressing ‘play’ and not looking back. Now it’s about closing the loop. It’s no longer about taking OSM data, filtering and massaging it in to a simple map to put pins on top of. It’s about solving real problems for users – how to get somewhere – and providing them with a great experience that they are inherently a part of, by fixing the map as they go. To make this work smoothly requires tremendous engineering effort, orders of magnitude beyond providing display maps. We, at Telenav, have taken on that challenge and I am personally extremely excited to be a part of the team that is going to make it happen.

For nearly ten years, OSM has had potential for developers and consumers, let’s switch it up and give it potential because of developers and consumers. While others have spent billions of dollars building unsustainable maps based on your contributions, OSM is free, easy and available to all.

The project is ready for you. Here is how you can contribute:

…and watch for OSM data and services coming to Scout, our award-winning consumer navigation offering, very soon.

It is time to make the switch: make OpenStreetMap your only street map.

28 Responses to It’s Time to Make OpenStreetMap Your Only Street Map

  1. Theo January 30, 2014 at 2:28 pm #

    Free? Nav app is 0.99 USD. Not a lot, but not free….

    • Alex January 31, 2014 at 2:08 am #

      Which app? You must be referring to a third party app. OSM provides free geographic data to everyone. Of course any company is allowed to charge money for post-processing this free data and for developing an app using it.

      • Tim February 3, 2014 at 5:11 pm #

        He’s talking about the skobbler app, which costs a euro if you want to use it as navigation beyond an initial 14-day trial period.

      • Sreejith February 4, 2014 at 11:19 am #

        Right. But OSM should have a high quality free app by the community. Otherwise it would never compete with the free of charge Google Maps.

        • Steve May 19, 2014 at 7:33 am #

          People will buy a coffee for 1 euro but they won’t pay 1 euro for an app that a developer spent hundreds of hours working on?

          • Julien May 19, 2014 at 8:01 am #

            It doesnt matter how much love and effort you put in your coffe, if the coffee next door is free and pretty good too, most people will choose it.

  2. makiHD January 31, 2014 at 3:04 am #

    Hi Steve, I’m a proud skobbler user and I am helping skobbler for the actual beta version.
    Will skobbler app be continued or will it be merged with Scout?

    And what about the price the other skobbler users have paid for skobbler?

    Can you say something for the plans in future?

    Thanks a lot!

  3. James January 31, 2014 at 11:21 pm #

    Steve, we need OpenHydroMap too. It’s time to be able to model all of our fundamental systems from a unified database {+} anything else that is a process

    • Ilya February 3, 2014 at 2:34 pm #

      The app isn’t available in Russian store. Could you please make it available worldwide?

    • Marcus February 4, 2014 at 7:32 am #

      You meen ?

      A unified database to control all maps !

  4. Darren February 3, 2014 at 11:01 am #

    Sadly, none of your apps are available in the UK. Otherwise I’d give it a go. Sticking with Waze until then.

  5. Roger Boo February 3, 2014 at 12:58 pm #

    WTF do the skobbler apps need access to my Contacts list and phone records?

    This is the main reason I don’t trust OpenStreetMaps – there are 5000 apps from various vendors, none of which give me any reason to trust them (and most of which seem to require far more access to my device than they should). At least with Google I know exactly what they’re doing with my data, which sucks but at least I know that they’re not going to use the information to social engineer themselves into my bank account. Can’t say the same for skobbler, so they don’t get to go anywhere near my phone.

  6. Larry February 3, 2014 at 1:15 pm #

    Seven billion contributors?! That’s seems ambitious, considering the world’s population and age distribution alone. Or am I misunderstanding the definition of “contributor”?

  7. ahmet alp balkan February 3, 2014 at 1:41 pm #

    That argument is not quite valid. You’re only showing maps from Russia. Here in USA there is Google Street View on ski trails and all those ski trails are mapped very well.

  8. Joe February 3, 2014 at 2:03 pm #

    Hi, I’m amazed. Hope there will be some app for Android also.

  9. Ilya February 3, 2014 at 2:38 pm #

    Hmm… it’s available, but link in the post isn’t redirecting to the local store for some reason…

  10. Tarik February 4, 2014 at 4:25 am #

    It depends on where do you live and your city management’s collaboration.

    Here is example from Istanbul :

  11. Julien February 4, 2014 at 6:40 am #

    Is there an Android version coming up?

  12. Rudolf Olah February 4, 2014 at 8:13 am #

    it would be amazing to have transit directions. That’s really the only reason I use Google Maps. I have two other apps for the transit systems specifically but an integrated solution is just too useful.

  13. Juanlu February 5, 2014 at 12:37 am #

    I promise I tried, but I was unable to locate an important street in Madrid. I’m sorry, but it’s not time for me to make osm my only street map yet.

    • Marcus February 5, 2014 at 7:32 am #

      Which one ? Either you add it, or you complain (add a note) so someone will had it. OpenStreetMap database is “open” so it’s easy & fast to correct.

  14. Gehäuse February 7, 2014 at 12:42 am #

    In my opinion its great that the big OSM players are working together. There are so many problems that just big companies could push in OSM. For example a community like app like Waze would be easy to develop on OSM base. But its not done. A uptodate interface would also help. More professional video tutorials. Even better error / notes system. So many things that could be done better. Like for example the mapdust of Skobbler wasn’t used that much. But its a great tool with a lot of potential.

    So I hope this acquisition will help bringing osm to the next level.

    Go for it !!!

  15. Leo Fish February 13, 2014 at 1:44 am #

    He wants to target the 7 billion contributors, really, with what a new Skobbler/Scout app – that is every man, woman and child on the planet! He’s smoking something. World Population is 7 billion


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