Microsoft Bing made its aerial imagery available for OSM editing, this is often very very very useful for mapping (speaking from own experience as an OSM mapper).
> The rights that you have under this agreement are limited solely to aerial imagery use in a non-commercial online editor application of OpenStreetMap maps (an "Application")
see also extra info in https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Bing_Maps#Terms.2C_Clari...
It is an interesting case as cost of that is basically nothing to Microsoft, this action has a very clear benefits to them, has negative influence on their competition like Google, has basically no negative side effects to OSM community (unlike company hiring people) and provides service that would cost OSM community ridiculous amounts of money if we would need to buy it (it would be impossible for us to buy worldwide aerial imagery of such quality).
It is weird to not mention it in that article.
That alone should give Microsoft "platinum" status.
Secondly, you need users to justify investments in these products. Microsoft brings users. Now businesses and others start paying attention, updating their details etc.
I understand the value that Microsoft brings via it's imagery, Map Builder and it's users. OpenStreetMap wouldn't be in the position it is today without Microsoft, and the other commercial interests involved in OSM. I want there involvement, I welcome it, and I'm grateful for it.
I am a little soured by the value that I put into society (through contributing thousands of hours to OSM , and my day job), and the value I get back. This email wasn't meant to discus that, but I guess it underlays everything I ever do and say.
By the way, that's also why Microsoft shies away from cartographic products except when maps are absolutely needed, they have encountered situations (for example, time zone maps and flag emojis) that Microsoft doesn't want to get involved in, and so avoids those if it's possible.
I really need to link https://www.joelonsoftware.com/2002/06/12/strategy-letter-v/
> most of the companies spending big money to develop open source software are doing it because it’s a good business strategy for them, not because they suddenly stopped believing in capitalism and fell in love with freedom-as-in-speech.
and explains why it makes sense.
See also a bit broader https://www.gwern.net/Complement
I wouldn't be surprised if this agreement was a big headache when Microsoft is licensing imagery from various satellite imagery providers.
> cost of that is basically nothing to Microsoft
I am unaware about internal Microsoft proceedings, but it seems possible.
Though I guess that given Microsoft scale and benefits from that it should be possible to describe it as "costs basically nothing to Microsoft"
It is not low sum, I would be bankrupted either by lawyer consultations on this topic and by extra server traffic if I would be paying for that, but on Microsoft scale it is probably nothing.
Launch some satellites.
In 2006, Vexcel Imaging was acquired by Microsoft
Corporation and contributed as a subsidiary to the
success of Microsoft’s Bing program by pushing the
envelope of photogrammetric hardware and software
technology with innovations that underpinned the Bing
Maps web service and mapping platform.
More details in this Twitter thread: https://twitter.com/btaylor/status/1099370126678253569
Meanwhile nobody has a good 3D map of Brisbane - Apple has none, Google’s is labeled (c) 2021 but is inexplicably actually from 2010 or so.
OSM is big enough and good enough that all the tech giants (except Google) would do better to start with OSM and improve it to meet their needs than to start a new, completely proprietary map from scratch.
That means that we are in an amazing place where in addition to the substantial volunteer OSM community, there are contributions from Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and hundreds or thousands of smaller companies all coming back in to a single global map that everyone can use. It's very worth it to do work that strengthens OSM, as it increases the number of companies that will use it, and possibly contribute back, rather than doing work the world at large won't benefit from.
P.S. As a disclaimer, I am co-founder of Geocode Earth (https://geocode.earth) a small business that does indeed profit from OSM (and other open) data. We also contribute back both through OSM contributions and by releasing our core software as the Pelias geocoder (https://pelias.io)
Any edits in OSM go live immediately without review.
And vandalism and malicious editing remains rare.
That would be enormous effort for minimal benefit.
Edit: I am not suggesting the existing OSM community build this, if companies want to do this they will put in the effort.
It seems like this data should be coming directly from some government database.
And Poland has no government database of hydrants or AED.
In fact Polish community is right now working on making decent AED database - with https://aed.openstreetmap.org.pl/ created recently that shows already collected data
It's amazing how good OSM is today, and the rate at which it's expanding and improving means it will only get much better over time.
Sadly I don’t think the map editing SQLite cli/gui tool made it out to OSS, even though that was a request I had.
It alleges repeatedly that Facebook, Apple, Microsoft etc “employ nobody in the OSM community”. They do. Microsoft even employed the founder of OSM, Steve Coast, for a while.
If your criterion is ‘involved in OSM prior to current employment’, I could name a bunch of people currently working for Facebook, Amazon, Snap etc of whom that’s true. (One such person even stood for election to the OSM Foundation board this month.)
But, as others have pointed out, I’d hope we’re more welcoming than that. As far as I’m concerned, if you’re editing OSM you’re part of the community.
Sounds kind of relaxing to me, and a way to contribute a bulk of hours to OSM that I hadn't thought of.
I've never heard of a policy like this before, but I like it a lot (admittedly I've been mostly in academia). Is this unique to Microsoft or more common?
I offer my observations as a warning to take any anti-corporate sentiment from self-proclaimed OSM community representatives with a grain of salt.
The lists are sometimes attributed a significance they don’t really have any more - they have a few hundred subscribers max in a massive project. Most of the OSM US community discussion happens on Slack, in Germany it’s a webforum, some countries use Telegram and so on.
You get people that are suspicious and cautious about big corp sponsorship of OSM, and rightly so, EEE was and still is a thing. But in OSM, contributors are contributors, plain and simple.
For the purposes of this email, I used the term "OSM Community" as meaning actively contributing to OSM personally/prior to employment, as you assumed. You could view that as gate keeping the "OSM Community", and you'd be right. But I do think it's important to be able to differentiate people who are employed, and map exclusively as part of that job vs people who are involved for other reasons. The term "OSM Community" was clearly the wrong one, but I'm glad you parsed it correctly.
I believe the amount of people that you could list who were involved in OSM prior to being employee is repetitively small. From the conversations I've had with some Organised Editing Teams, they don't hire out. Employees of the companies can get transferred to those teams/departments, but they don't have public job postings for people to apply for.
Also, it seems pretty easy to add something in the Organic Maps app (né maps.me), for instance, not that I use that for mapping.
Back in 2007 or so, I spent hundreds of hours aligning TIGER data to the satellite imagery in OSM, usually in cities I never had been before. If I remember correctly, I did most of Fresno. :-)
I’m totally fine with my edits being used commercially too.
Back when Compact Discs were still a thing. on Winamp, WMP, etc you wanted to display a list of tracks, covert art, the artist, etc. Volunteers contributed this data from their own discs (that could be identified). This was before MP3s and ID3 tagging.
So volunteers built the CDDB with this data. The entity that "owned" it silently put in a copyright assignment with any submissions and ultimately became a company called Gracenote, which still exists today. They also removed the free access to CDDB.
None of this matters today but at the time it was a huge loss and a betrayal.
So I personally think it's completely fine to contribute to something like OSM as long as there are guarantees in there that the open access to that data can't be lost. It doesn't bother me if the likes of Apple and Microsoft use that for commercial uses, particularly if in doing so they contribute data back to the project.
This is why Stackoverflow dumps  were done in the first place and why they're so important: as a guarantee against that data being taken away or put behind a paywall.
Beware the CDDBs of the world however.
1) current dataset can be fully downloaded and is available under a copyleft license
2) it would be relatively hard to hijack project https://wiki.osmfoundation.org/wiki/Licence/Contributor_Term...
OSMF agrees that it may only use or sub-license Your Contents as part of a database and only under the terms of one or more of the following licences: ODbL 1.0 for the database and DbCL 1.0 for the individual contents of the database; CC-BY-SA 2.0; or such other free and open licence (for example, http://www.opendefinition.org/okd/) as may from time to time be chosen by a vote of the OSMF membership and approved by at least a 2/3 majority vote of active contributors.
This is the key point. The problem isn't mutual benefit, the problem is when communities can be seized by private entities or have the rug pulled out from under them, effectively stealing a community and shutting it down for their own gain. That's the difference between OSM and GoodReads. If you're going to donate time, make sure you donate time to commons, not to companies.
That being said, OSM does have a lot of guarantees about its data in place, and even better has license requirements that force companies who extend that data to contribute back. It's good that OSM is seeing more usage across the industry.
With OSM however I have the same rights to the combined data as any other entity.
I hesitate because ultimately I cannot fully silence my ego. I want to release my content and have a positive impact on game creators. I know my ideas and hard work will be taken and rebroadcast by other teacher content creators without credit. In abstract that my ideas will spread to a wider audience will maximize its impact. ...But I want my hard work to be recognized and credited which is hamstringing my willingness to release.
My ego wants me to keep this information private and work in a closed source way. "Ha, I am so smart that I grok this stuff and can apply it," I imagine my mindset saying. "Look at how these fools struggle, ignorant of a better way." However; I have benefited from others making the brave choice to work in an open source way.
How do people who give away their work (MIT or CC license) think about it? I feel like a jerk for benefiting from a culture of open source and yet I have this inner conflict?
Most people write open-source for material reasons -- it lets them bring some of their own code into a new workplace, with minimal employer resistance. Also, many people will try to open-source the tooling they built at work so that they can then take that tooling with them to a new employer (avoiding the duplication of effort and potential legal issues).
All of the open-source code that I wrote for non-material reasons, I wrote it because I thought it was fun to write, and I open sourced it because others might find it interesting or useful. But I never expected any kind of recognition (let alone compensation).
In feudal Japan, poets would write poetry anonymously (not pseudonymously), and many historians and scholars debate which known poet wrote which poem. The fact that these works of art are not attached to any author's ego or name, does not diminish their beauty after all these centuries -- arguably this characteristic amplifies and elevates the work beyond the history of people, to the history of ideas and concepts. At the end of the day, we are just transient conduits for concepts. The notion that a person deserves to have "more" for their ideas and concepts and artistry, is as shameful as the notion that artists deserve to starve for not slavishly serving the whims of the market.
As a bonus, the more eyes there are on my code the more likely it is that I get good feedback, feedback I use to improve my skills.
To make this a bit more tangible, you could examine this stuggle from different viewpoints.
For example, does it hurt you that some people benefit a lot from your work, if you otherwise lead a comfortable life?
Or, would your idea/knowledge be popular if you kept it "closed source"? Maybe it's popular now and many people benefit, and if those were paying users, boy, would you be rich. But the alternative could be that the fantastic knowledge of yours wouldn't get traction in the first place, leaving you with a worse outcome, but of course you're not taken advantage of either.
I think what you should examine is what would make you feel like it's worth it to release the knowledge. Does applause sound nice? You could look into presentation. Do you like digital feedback like HN karma or youtube subscriber count? Look into content creation. I think that if you're honest with yourself about what would make you happy, then that should show the way.
No doubt at least part of your know-how, however small, was built upon others' experiences (also hard to give credit for everything). If you do release your content, this is just giving back to the community.
Also to play with your ego side, let's say some other person beats you to releasing the content that you wanted to release. And that person markets well and takes a lot of credit that you wanted. Would your ego push you to publish sooner?
I think in a way we are all pilots of this big elephant like meat machine. It has its wants, it has its needs, and as pilots we are trying to steer ourselves with the understanding that the elephant is ultimately doing what it wants. I suppose the trick is to understand the elephant (ourselves) to know how to steer into the direction we want.
In the tech context, if something you make gets a lot of uptake because a lot of people find it useful, then the spread of the useful thing could mean more recognition for you. But taking hold of that recognition will still require extra effort, like going to conferences to talk about the thing so people can put a face to the name.
There is some level of gatekeeping here, as the blog implies is that that employees at those companies are not part of the OSM community although they contribute to OSM.
With this attitude ("no true OSM contributor unless I approve of"), it is hard to grow the community by welcoming new people.
It has small value for everyone, but all combined usage, it has immense economical value for the society. All alone, it's not really useful to end-users, but it can help a lot of businesses that couldn't exist before it.
Maps are already considered infrastructure, since they are already made by governments!
The only missing part to say OSM is an infrastructure, is for governments to actually contribute to it.
The best way to contribute is to openly license government datasets, and many such datasets are already in use and being used to improve OSM (and often problems are reported back, resulting in fixes in official datasets!).
Government official editing directly would be in many cases more harmful than useful.
Ideally, governments would simply pay OSM people to do it on their own, but eh, we know this can never happen, and even if it did, greedy people might be tempted by that kind of money and would go into the OSM community just for that.
Vast majority of time is used up on handling useful but not fully correct data.
I am not aware of any datasets that are high quality, on a compatible license, including data of interest to OSM and existing for longer than a year - that would not be imported already.
There are more people interested in making imports than high quality datasets on a compatible licenses, this is not the bottleneck.
- import (adding object to database) - for example https://budynki.openstreetmap.org.pl/ is used by OSM community in Poland to import official address and building data after review (sadly, quality makes necessary to review data but still saves time overall)
- using for mapping (for example Bing aerial, Strava heatmap, aerial imagery released by many governments is also available on a compatible license)
- linking (for example many OSM objects link Wikipedia articles about them or their official website)
- used to find places for mapping (if Google starts showing new road I am not allowed to copy it into OSM - both due to licensing and low quality of Google data. But I can select this place for the next bicycle trip and map everything there as I survey this area)
Not sure how it matches general terminology, OSM has some slang/terms which is sometime incompatible or unknown elsewhere.
Second best way to contribute is to force commercial corporations to share the datasets they have of what is essentially public data - what is in the physical world and where. Currently, I see a lot of this kind of data on Google Maps, but not on OSM (e.g. location of various cultural and commercial venues, public transportation lines and schedules etc.)
And by "force" I mean something like legislation or regulation.
My answer to the title question is a strong "yes" in this case and I consider it akin to a grocery store putting up signs saying "Please help us keep costs down and pass the savings along to you by returning your cart to the cart stand." Giant mega corp Walmart does this if memory serves.
I like that humanity has built such an amazing thing as maps and like it when people return their shopping carts.
You did pay for Google Maps indirectly as you were and still are a product Google sells to advertisers.
Before it you had to use paper maps or use those very expensive and crappy Garmin devices.
I used to have this daydream of a red line painted onto the road leading you to your destination. Never expected it to become real (in a slightly different form). Too late for me but another small way later generations will enjoy higher QoL. Few will realize the benefits beyond occasionally getting lost.
Now days you can drop into the middle of almost anywhere on the globe and get mostly accurate on-the-ground directions regardless of if you walk, take public transport or drive. Made navigating Tokyo so much easier!
did it overall cost them any money ? no
did it overall cost them any physical effort ? no
did google force them to use the service ? no
Does it really sting so much to admit Google Maps is a free to use service?
Yes, Google makes apps usable by general public but their database is proprietary - including what people contribute for free.
I have a few million edits on wikidata to proof my sympathy for Open Data. But the openness is only useful if it leads to more people having access to the data. And a proprietary service being involved doesn’t diminish the value by itself.
I imagine many of the employees that do the work mentioned in the article would consider themselves part of the OSM community.
Facebook and Microsoft are also "Gold Corporate Members" of OSM which costs €10,000 / year, and they are "Corporate Partners" of the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, which does employ people to directly work on OSM: https://www.hotosm.org/.
Also apparently "nearly 17% of the global road network was last edited by a corporate data-team member" (https://2020.stateofthemap.org/sessions/SPRQVZ/), and lots of people must be employed by corporations to make that happen, even if it's mostly automated edits.
Being a part of the OSM community means they aren’t employed by OSM as employees. If they employ the person, they’re no longer a community member but an employee.
I don’t actually see the issue.
Note that OSM does not employ anyone (Open Street Map Foundation has very limited employees and contractors, see https://wiki.osmfoundation.org/wiki/Contractors_and_employee... )
Malone keeps saying this but I don’t think it means what he says it is.
Those large entities employ lots of people who add to OSM. Not only do they add content but by his own description they do QC and add other new features and support.
Their contributions are no different (except in magnitude) than a single, tiny contribution I might make, yet presumably that would make me “part of the community” but not them?
But, yes, it seems rather like saying that Intel or IBM contributors aren't in the GNU community, and that would have been absurd to argue about Cygnus. The worry might be organizational take-over by commercial interests (Linux Foundation?), but that's different.
This is nice to hear as major contributor to that software (if you use that app and something is unclear then it is likely a bug that should be reported to https://github.com/streetcomplete/StreetComplete/issues )
If they are contributing data, they are part of the OSM community.
Why wouldn't I fix the data around where I live, if I can, and if it helps me, and everyone else trying to navigate here? I fix stuff here, someone else fixes stuff somewhere else, there are also gamified apps (atleast one), where you can get "badges" to input basic data to OSM, and everyone profits.
And maybe that's fine! Maybe we shouldn't let companies use the software at all. But that would have ecosystem-shaking results as the costs are passed down to consumers and fewer engineers are employed. At this point, the whole world is dependent on OSS.
Open Source does not exist for people to get paid. If it did, it'd be the worst software gig in the world, by pay anyway :) To ask for money just because somebody else is getting money and you're not is simply envy and greed. Either ask for the money up front before you release the thing, or don't worry about what other people are getting paid.
Competition is a waste, contrary to the misinformation we have been subjected to, it only serves a minority at the expense of everyone else. Collaboration offers far greater efficiencies, the essence and success of open source lies in the openness and contagion of openness to share the yield of commutative expenses.
I think the valid discontent you express is with regards to the open source flag being used to promote goodwill while in reality building a business model on it with closeness to protect monetisation. that I agree has been a plague and a very disingenuous approach to doing business, at the end hurting opensource, at least tarnishing the goodness reputation open source has built for decades.
Going back to the early days with Stallman and the GPL it was about making software more transparent and empowering users. You can see how something is implemented, modify how it works for your own needs, etc, just like if you were to buy a physical machine like a car.
Competition is not a waste, it is the means by which free actors improve society. In theory there if there's one provider of everything, there is less waste, and that may be true for certain periods of time but not in general. Power structures ossify, become bloated, corrupt, and inefficient. If you have a monopoly, even if it's the most benevolent, open one in the world, the incentives to improve are diminished. The most powerful incentive to improvement is the threat of those you depend on for money, power, or status, freely choosing against you, which requires competition. You need people that are able to look at the status quo and decide that they can do it better, creating the next generation of whatever it may be.
The OSS community has lots of competition and is better for it. Linux competes with the BSDs and private OSs. There's tons of distros building off each other trying new ideas. Forking is expected. It doesn't always lead to the next great project but it moves the needle.
I partially agree with this claim, but - FOSS software does not prevent competition, it just takes the intellectual property and copyrights aspect from it. You compete in conditions of access to your competitor's data as well as yours. And there is intense competition in FOSS! It doesn't devolve into everybody working on the same thing. But the point is it is always possible to derive from one of the "branches" of competition and do your own thing.
(Case in point: Desktop environments which based themselves on GNOME 2 because they didn't like where GNOME 3 was headed design-wise.)
When you think about it, there are many levels of competition, and very little code re-use. Only a few shared libraries or APIs/ABIs are actually reused by more than a handful of apps.
Well, first, a "handful of apps" is already quite a bit of reuse; and second - it's quite a lot of libraries that get reused (or used outside of the original application). It's true that you have many libdo-stuff-for-foo-app that's not very reusable, but if you search the web, or github/sourceforge/etc., there's a hell of a lot that's available for use and reuse. Finally, some (re)use is from toy projects or ones not intended for mass usage.
So it's really not bad at all :-)
Do people really need this? I use OSM whenever I go on a walk anywhere in the world and I often think about the local mappers who maintain the data. I can say with almost complete certainty that someone, somewhere has appreciated my own OSM contributions at some point. That's enough for me.
The sole exception to this is the Crimea, which the OSM board ruled is exempt from this rule, as they favor the Ukrainian government over the Russian government.
Also, looking at your comment history: "Please don't use Hacker News for political or ideological battle. It tramples curiosity."
I.e. they ruled that any mass changes based on administrative declarations weren't OK, but changing street names was fine if the on the ground signage had been changed.
So either what I and the person in charge of it are saying is inaccurate, or what you are saying is inaccurate.
This falls under criteria #3 on the linked page and as far as I can tell is being done with the same "on the ground" rule that OSM has always used.
The exception you're linking to is relevant to what country relation and similar data structures Crimea is in. The usual application of the rule would be to have it Russia only, but it's in both Russia and Ukraine.
Almost nobody who uses OSM ever has to deal with country relations, so implying that this is some major policy change is blowing things out of proportion.
It also seems like the least bad way to mark up the data to me. To the extent that geopolitical borders mean anything it's in fact the case that Crimea is still to some extent Ukranian, even though Russia has "on the ground" control. I.e. various other countries have sanctions etc. in place that recognize that that's the case, as opposed to the rest of Russia.
If WWII happened today wouldn't the most useful thing for OSM to do to still have say the Channel islands in the UK to some extent in 1943, and under Axis control? I.e. to have overlapping claims of sovereignty, and simply add disputed/occupied relations on top of those?
You are right that this exception is not all-encompassing of everything pertaining to Crimea.
The linked page specifically addresses this, and shows that you're wrong about that.
If the Russians update a street sign in Crimea it's OSM general policy that the data should be updated to reflect that.
You then moved the goal post to there being some specific exception to general policies relating to Crimea.
That's true, but nobody in this thread claimed that wasn't the case. I'm saying that you're misrepresenting those exceptions.
We aren't their customers, we're the employees. That's why data ownership is such a verboten topic, it breaks their entire model.
If someone improves OSM then such contribution can be used by anyone - from hobby map maker, through artists, maker of open source navigation to evil corporations.
Dude please proof read. I walk into an article making a statement and the very second sentence has errors like this, you're losing credibility.
> They are reasonably good at fixing and contributing data to OSM in those regions. They employ nobody in the OSM community.
Except whoever contributes data to OSM in those regions? The same for every example in the list. Amazon is literally mapping towns for all of us and giving it away for free. What's the criteria for "in the OSM community" if not "contributes to OSM"? What's the point of FOSS if not this?
Your first sentence has punctuation errors, and your second sentence it littered with grammatical errors...
I’m sorry, I can’t provide directions. I make $80/hour. Spending a minute giving you directions costs me more than $1 per minute, so please give me a $1.33 and then I’ll tell you where to go.
> nearly 17% of the global road network was last edited by a corporate data-team member.
Sometimes a corporation can "suck value" by using anticompetitive behavior to prevent competitors from offering better/cheaper products to consumers. But in this case, Google is the big corporation, and contributions to OSM benefit smaller competitors at the expense of Google, creating more options and more value for consumers overall.
Here is a few:
> Apple uses OSM data in parts of the world where their commercial partners don’t provide data. They are reasonably good at fixing and contributing data to OSM in those regions. They employ nobody in the OSM community.
> Microsoft Bing uses OSM in several regions, and is slowly moving from it’s traditional providers to OSM globally. They provide machine-learning (ML) datasets that they have computed from areal imagery. They employ nobody in the OSM community.
They maintains and contributed to some open source tool and they are hosting (for free) some open source maps.
They were one of the main contributors to OSM and now they nearly stop contributing to OSM (they are still contributing but maybe 10 times less than before)
Wikipedia helps innumerable companies do basic research. Should I stop contributing to Wikipedia? When I clean trash from a local river, Sam's Row Boat rental benefits. Should I stop cleaning the river?
That actually really resonates with me, thanks for writing it. It sounds like something I'd say in a conversation, flipping/re phrasing the argument to make someone see it differently.
I often try to equate OSM to the commons (physical land, and digital software/media/culture). I'm glad I found OSM, it's the sweet spot for me, technical enough to interest me, but not to complicated that I can't contribute. I've tried (sometimes successfully) to contribute to Free Software, but unfortunately I'm not a developer. Obviously I can't add more physical common land to the world, but I do advocate for it, and our PRoW.
> When I clean trash from a local river, Sam's Row Boat Rental benefits. Should I stop cleaning the river?
But should Sam's Row Boat Rental contribute to cleaning the river too? What about Sam's Fish and Chips, whos packaging is littering the river? Do they have a responsibility to clear the river post-littering? Do they have a responsibility to put bins around to stop the river being getting littered in? :P