[openstreetmap/openstreetmap-website] Add OpenLocationCode to OSM website (#1807)

Luc Gommans notifications at github.com
Sat Nov 3 22:23:58 UTC 2018

Coordinates are digits with a decimal separator, something everyone works with on a daily basis, even if only on supermarket's price tags. Everyone understands it, some can even estimate locations with them. It's supported by everything that has anything remotely to do with geographic locations. Basically, Google Plus Codes is asking to change digits into a base64-like format, with limited added value. The size decrease (the most obvious advantage) is almost negligible. The keyboard size you need on a touchscreen (numpad vs full keyboard with number row) adds as many typos as it reduces the length, and pronouncing numbers is unambiguous in all languages that I'm aware of. For letters, on the other hand, we made wordlists to be able to transmit them correctly (like the NATO alphabet). There is really limited advantage other than tying into Google's kingdom.

I'm not necessarily against converting them back into coordinates when a Google Maps user puts them into a search box, but if lots of people go "oh yeah, good idea, they claim to be easier for X" then the next step is to also start producing the codes in the share menu, and that's dangerous: we'd be compatible with google and some other, recently updated applications that might have implemented it. In contrast, the coordinate system is equally compatible with everything.

So I'll repeat that I am not necessarily against this little thing of converting plus codes back into coordinates when someone puts it in a search box. What I'm worried about is what the next step will be, and if we'd be promoting a proprietary platform by doing so. Yes, the codes themselves are open, but if the biggest promoter is Google... it's like Apple publishing specs for a new connector of theirs: sure, the connector is "open", but if a manufacturer starts making devices which use that connector, they are implicitly helping Apple. We should probably strive to be compatible with the 'connector' (accept such plugs) without manufacturing them ourselves.

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