Q&A with OpenStreetMap’s Founder Steve Coast

In December we mentioned the now-successful crowdfunding initiative for The Book of OpenStreetMap, to be written by Steve Coast, the founder of OpenStreetMap. During the Holiday Break, Steve Coast participated to a live reddit “Ask Me Anything” session on OpenStreetMap, and there’s a lot of pretty interesting discussion in there. And Steve did answer my own question :-)

Here’s some snippets:

  • Q: the next big challenge for OSM is address data
  • A: Frankly it’s hard to see it happen within OSM any time soon. Addressing requires some bold moves.
  • Q: Do you see Google ever moving to OSM for Google Maps/Earth data? 
  • A: Google people have been super supportive of OSM including funding our conference and so on. I think OSM just moves too slowly for what they’re trying to achieve, and that’s fine. […] Will it ever happen? Eventually. […] The ODbL is a convenient thing to blame for not using OSM. I haven’t found a use case yet where it wasn’t really about something else, like a business decision.
  • Q: Are there any decisions you made in the early days you now regret ?
  • A: Mistakes abound. OSM could have had an exit like waze. Segments (a data model we had prior to ways) diverted energy away. Trying to run mapping parties by telling people where or what to map rather than letting them self-select. Calling it OpenStreetMap when it’s much more than streets. […] Which brings me to my only regret: Giving up too much power. I thought that everyone in the world thinks like I do, and would also give up power and try new things like I did. That for the most part simply didn’t happen. It’s worked out very well, and the people are great, and OSM hums along… but the days of taking big bets and risks is over. That drives me nuts, since there’s so much more out there to do with open mapping than just making the map slightly better every year and running another conference.

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