OpenStreetMap (OSM) is a collaborative project to create a free editable map of the world. Two major driving forces behind the establishment and growth of OSM have been restrictions on use or availability of map information across much of the world and the advent of inexpensive portable satellite navigation devices.
Created by Steve Coast in the UK in 2004, it was inspired by the success of Wikipedia and preponderance of proprietary map data in the UK and elsewhere. Since then, it has grown to around three hundred thousand contributors, who collect data using GPS devices, aerial photography, and other free sources. This crowdsourced data is then made available under the Open Database License. The site is supported by the OpenStreetMap Foundation, a non-profit organization registered in England.
Rather than the map itself, the data generated by the OpenStreetMap project is considered its primary output. This data is then available for use in both traditional applications, like its usage by Craigslist and Foursquare to replace Google Maps, and more unusual roles, like replacing default data included with GPS receivers. These data have been favorably compared with proprietary datasources, though data quality varies worldwide.
Steve Coast founded the project in 2004, initially focusing on mapping the United Kingdom. In the UK and elsewhere, government-run and tax-funded projects like the Ordnance Survey created massive datasets but failed to freely and widely distribute them. In April 2006, the OpenStreetMap Foundation was established to encourage the growth, development and distribution of free geospatial data and provide geospatial data for anybody to use and share. In December 2006, Yahoo confirmed that OpenStreetMap could use its aerial photography as a backdrop for map production.
In April 2007, Automotive Navigation Data (AND) donated a complete road data set for the Netherlands and trunk road data for India and China to the project and by July 2007, when the first OSM international The State of the Map conference was held, there were 9,000 registered users. Sponsors of the event included Google, Yahoo and Multimap. In October 2007, OpenStreetMap completed the import of a US Census TIGER road dataset. In December 2007, Oxford University became the first major organisation to use OpenStreetMap data on their main website.