Google Maps competitor OpenStreetMap targets the future of mapping

Google Maps competitor OpenStreetMap targets the future of mapping after reaching one million users – OSM next-generation mapping solution goes from strength to strength; already beats rivals for detail and accuracy in key regions


  • Google Maps competitor OpenStreetMap (OSM) celebrates one million members

  • Booming popularity has seen members double approximately every 14 months

  • OSM has now become the most detailed digital map in several countries

Berlin, Germany, 28th January 2013: January 2013 saw the OpenStreetMap community record over one million members, a figure which has doubled approximately every 14 months since 2005 and is testament to its burgeoning popularity. OSM’s success is largely down to its participatory nature and wide community of users, who create and maintain maps at their leisure in areas they know best, leading to it being dubbed the "Wikipedia" of maps. In just a few years, a once small-knit community has expanded to help develop the world’s largest "crowd sourced" map, providing superb levels of detail and accuracy not possible with conventional alternatives. Today, OSM has already become the most detailed digital map available in several countries (e.g. England, Germany) and its ever-increasing user base looks set to broaden this status around the world.

The reasons for OSM’s success seem clear when analysing the alternative strategies adopted by its few rivals. Nokia subsidiary Navteq and TomTom’s Tele Atlas have their origins in the field of in-car navigation, and therefore lack much of the additional detail provided by OSM when it comes to off-road and pedestrian mapping. Google Maps was originally developed for web use and along with the other commercial providers has focused on car-based mapping. According to industry experts, Navteq employs approximately 1,000 people tasked directly with mapping and Google spends roughly one billion dollars a year to maintain and expand its map. Despite these tremendous efforts, both will be hard pressed to stay ahead of OSM’s cost-efficient and detail-oriented Open Source approach in an increasingly mobile-oriented market.

With more and more people using handheld devices as mapping aids, navigation priorities are shifting away from motorists and websites towards an all-encompassing solution that also includes, for example, pedestrian and cyclist routes. In addition, conventional providers will typically only retain full control over maps in limited locations, primarily Western Europe and North America. In other countries, maps must be licensed for a fee, with maintenance and quality control becoming increasingly difficult and often prohibitively expensive.

OpenStreetMap’s open-source nature solves this problem, and through crowd-sourced mapping is now recognised in many countries as surpassing the detail and accuracy of rivals. This is particularly true in the case of non-automotive mapping such as cycling and pedestrian trails, offering the project a significant strategic advantage.

Despite the rapid growth and record-breaking figures for OSM users, it’s still early days for this revolutionary mapping solution in many ways. While its structure is such that anyone can edit a map with the help of web editors to help contribute to its improvement, this process can be complicated and is often the realm of computer-savvy professionals and enthusiasts. The next step towards realising the full potential of OSM is to make editing a map a user-friendly and intuitive process, allowing more people to get involved in the development process in order to further increase the accuracy and clarity of the maps.

"While reaching one million users is a major milestone for OSM, it’s still early days in terms of fulfilling its potential," says Marcus Thielking, co-founder of Berlin-based software developer skobbler, who has had great success utilising OpenStreetMap in its own products, including GPS Navigation 2 and ForeverMap 2. "With 90 percent of the population still realistically unable to participate, we’re expecting easier OSM access to allow everyone and anyone to help increase the success of this amazing modern alternative to conventional mapping."


About OSM

The OpenStreetMap (OSM) project is a free, open-source project built on the Wikipedia model. The OSM amateur cartographers cultivate free to use spatial data, steadily helping to improve the quality and accuracy of the product. Regions, streets and places of interest are frequently added and displayed on the OSM map, with regular free updates available to users. Under the umbrella of "OpenStreetMap Foundation", OSM now carries more than one million registered users of spatial data. Today OSM can boast a greater level of detail and accuracy than Google, though as with all free projects OSM relies on personal commitment and donations. For more information visit

About skobbler

Founded in 2008, Berlin-based skobbler ( is one of the premier players in mobile location-aware services. With over 3 million customers on iOS alone, skobbler has regularly topped overall and category app charts in numerous countries, leading the way in the development of location technology and end consumer products based on the OpenStreetMap. This experience also facilitates skobbler’s development projects for third parties. Based on the skobbler GeOS map access technology, companies can base their location-aware web or mobile services on the OpenStreetMap.


Editor (18230 Posts)

Glenn is a geographer and a GIS professional with over 20 years experience in the industry. He's the co-founder of GISuser and several other technology web publications.

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