The Billion Dollar Dataset Next Door


I would wager that corporate participation in OSM is less about directly monetizing souped-up versions of OSM data provided as modern web services and more about desperately avoiding the existential conflict of having to pay Google for the privilege of accessing their proprietary map data.⁵

The article was a really good read! I liked this part, though as a user the licensing costs are hard(er) to imagine when the companies involved have the money (though maybe not in incentive?).

It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out, as I don’t think anyone puts anything past Facebook when it comes to making a profit.


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I’m confused. Is OSM not “Open” anymore? Like are they bought out?

It is still open, just that some corporations are contributing to it and using it’s data for their content.

Good TL;DR.

I’m slightly confused why the community is seeing this as controversial though. Isn’t the whole idea that OSM would take over as a dominant atlas database exactly what the project’s end goal is? It just has the side effect that tech companies start to use and contribute to their database.


I agree, but I will always be more than a bit apprehensive whenever Amazon, Microsoft, Apple and freaking Facebook are involved. If they make OSM more feature rich so they can compete with Google Maps more successfully: good. However, I am worried that they might pull off some sleazy moves, like for example removing Google’s buildings from OSM out of spite. I hope I’m just being paranoid.

I understand your concern, but I don’t think you need to be worried about that. I mean, it’s not the first time an open project sees large scale participation from big corporate companies. Take Linux for example, where Google is one of several corporate contributors.

If someone from Facebook decides to remove OSM data for Google’s buildings, their user would probably be banned. I also don’t see that paying off.


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The thing that may be viewed as problematic is that companies have an incentive to not contribute products they build on top of OSM. Basically, OSM runs the risk of falling behind because for-profit companies won’t want OSM to adopt functionality that they are trying to sell. (Hypothetically).

This makes sense. I feel like I read this part in the article but it must not have stuck. Thanks for explaining

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