[OSM-dev] History API Server

Peter Körner osm-lists at mazdermind.de
Wed Dec 9 20:27:47 GMT 2009


Now that we have a full Histoy Planet Dump (Thank you Lars, Matt and all 
who helped with that!), we can again start talking about a History 
Server and a History Api.

What I'm thinking of is an extension of the 0.6 API, that includes calls 
like this:

GET /api/0.6/[way|relation]/#id/#version/full
GET /api/0.6/node/#id/#version/ways
GET /api/0.6/node/#id/ways?time=#time
GET /api/0.6/[node|way|relation]/#id?time=#time
GET /api/0.6/[node|way|relation]/#id/full?time=#time
GET /api/0.6/map?time=#time

and maybe others like
   GET /api/0.6/[nodes|ways|relations]/#id1,#id2,...,#idN
   GET /api/0.6/[nodes|ways|relations]/#id1/#ver1/.../#idN/#verN

This would make it easy for a client to fetch the state of a city at any 
given time. It would also enable a client to get the complete geometry 
of a way or a relation in any given version or at any given time.

This would make it easy to create animations like the "year of edits" 
for a town or maybe also a country on demand and with real mapnik styles.

The version-based calls (especially GET /api/0.6/node/#id/#version/ways) 
would make it possible to visualize the changes made in a given changeset:
   if a way was changed, it is contained with each node and each node's
   version, so a client can fetch all those nodes from api and re-build
   the way's exact geometry before and after the change

   if a node is changed, the ways depending on it are not included in the
   changeset and with the current api it's not possible to fetch the
   geometry of the ways depending on this node as they were before the

I know that there are implications on how versions are counted (one 
version of a way could stand for more than one geometry, as its nodes 
could have been moved without the version of the way being incremented) 
but they can be solved by simply defining sth. like
   GET /api/0.6/way/#id/#version/full returns the full geometry of the
   way #id, as it was when version #version of was created.

Still all possible geometries of the way could be accessed via the time 

When taking this idea further, a historic api could even implement 
"minor versions" on ways/relations, thus enabling a client to address 
any change in the geometry of a way (should read: any change on one of 
it's nodes) explicitly.

Such an api could create heavy load on the underlying database, what is 
AFAIR the main reason why such calls aren't implemented in the current 
api. But unlike on the main api, queries to an such a history api don't 
need to be answered in miliseconds. When a /map query for a city on 1st 
jan 2007 takes 15 minutes, well that's ok. I's still faster than to 
download the corresponding planet dump, import int into postgis and 
catch up with the diffs, so what?

My questions to you are
  - do you think such an server/service/api would be of use for a greater
  - who would be willing to develop, and who would be able to host such a
  - do you think these calls can be implemented without having 10 queries
    crash the database?

I think ptolemy, the new-new Wikimedia Toolserver has enough space (2336 
GB of raw HD space -- physical, bot logical!) and enough power to run 
such an api -- that's why I CCed Maps-L -- maybe Ævar can say if he 
thinks this would be possible.

Thank you for reading and commenting,

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