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What is Open Street Map?

About a decade ago, a group of cyclists in the U.K. were frustrated with the lack of freely available street map data. Cyclists need to know how to get from here to there without freeways. This is what led to the founding of OpenStreetMap, or OSM, one of the world’s best known crowd-sourced projects. If we are not familiar with the OSM site, many of us may already be familiar with OSM base maps used in other places like ArcGIS Online, MapBox, CartoDB, and several others. What sets OSM apart from familiar commercial online map services is its copyright that allows free use and redistribution of its data. Note that OSM’s data is free for everyone to use, but its tile servers are not.

In the United States, the OSM Foundation recently held its annual conference, the State of the Map US in New York City. Video recordings of the many talks, panels, and workshops are available on the conference Program page.

A great way to learn more about OSM is to meet up at one of the various Mapathons. Senior mappers talk about OSM to new users, and new and old users alike socialize and update a very useful map.

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