[OSM-talk] advertising

Etienne treasurer at openstreetmap.org
Mon Jul 2 01:44:24 BST 2007

In my capacity as Treasurer of the OpenStreetMap Foundation I'd like to
respond to some of the points raised in the many recent messages about the
introduction of adverts on the main page slippy map.  I'd also like to
explain the role of the OpenStreetMap Foundation in a little more detail.

To keep things as clear as possible I'll try and stick to the facts and
avoid expressing any personal views or opinions.  I'll save any personal
opinions that I might have for follow up messages.

1  Mappam is a commercial web site run by ZXV Limited.  Steve Coast is a
director of ZXV Limited.  Mappam is a new venture which Steve has just
launched and is very excited about.

2  Mappam advertising is being trialed on the OpenStreetMap's slippy map.
The deal is that 100% of advertising revenue generated in the first month
goes to the OpenStreetMap Foundation.  The revenue split thereafter has not
been decided but would likely be commercially sensitive information.
Currently ZXV is not benefiting financially from advertising on the OSM
slippy map.

3  Google Ads.  As recently as February this year, the slippy map site was
still displaying Google ads.    There were some issues with visitors being
confused and thinking that the ads were part of the site, so they were
quietly removed.

4 Other Adverts.  Advertising takes many forms, some more direct than
others.  The main OSM page contains an acknowledgement of two of its
sponsors UCL and Bytemark - this could be considered to be a form of
advertising.  The state of the Map conference has its own sponsors (
http://www.stateofthemap.org/?page_id=5) who expect their logos to be
displayed proportionately to the amount of their support.

Given that there are already commercial sponsorship messages on the main
page, and that Google ads were being displayed just four months ago, there
was already a precedent for advertising, so Steve did not feel that the need
for wide consultation was necessary.  I did however advise Steve to notify
people who were members of the OpenStreetMap Foundation as a courtesy.  Imi,
the third member of the OSMF board was not available and was not consulted.

OpenStreetMap Foundation:
The OpenStreetMap was established about a year ago to serve a number of
purposes.  Firstly, to be a custodian for the servers and services necessary
to host the OpenStreetMap project.  Specifically the foundation is the
custodian of the servers located at UCL and the www.openstreetmap.org domain

Secondly the Foundation, as a UK registered limited company affords some
degree of protection from copyright and liability suits.  Previously Steve
would have been personally liable for any action that might have been taken
as a result of alleged copyright infringement.

Thirdly, the Foundation provides a vehicle for fundraising to support the
project.  As a non-profit organisation its articles of association legally
prevent it from making a profit.

Last, but not least, the Foundation is owned by its members.  The membership
scheme provides a mechanism for interested people to have a say in the
activities of the Foundation.

It is important to understand that the OpenStreetMap Foundation is *not* the
same thing as the OpenStreetMap project.  The Foundation does not own the
OpenStreetMap data, is not the copyright holder and has no desire to own the
data.  Anyone can setup a few servers and host the OSM data using the same
or different software.  In this respect the Foundation is an organisation
that performs fundraising in order to provides servers to host the project.
It's role is to support the project not to control it.

Many of the activities of the Foundation do not have a high profile.  They
involve meetings and discussions with potential donors and partners,
preparation of proposals, and conference and event organising.  Many of the
discussions with potential donors are carried out confidentially and we only
get to shout about them once a deal has been closed.

Detailed records of income (including donations) and expenditure by the
Foundation are kept in accordance with UK accounting standards.  The
Foundation has a legal obligation to publish its accounts annually.  As it
was only incorporated on 22nd August 2006 no accounts have yet been

Until quite recently the turnover of the foundation was no more than a
couple of hundred pounds a month and was probably not of much interest or
importance.  Recently the turnover has increased significantly, mainly due
to the State of the Map conference.  It is probably appropriate now to
publish management accounts on a quarterly basis.

Our income is from a variety of sources and we continually strive to
identify new funding channels.  Currently these include personal donations,
corporate sponsorship, donations of hardware and bandwidth, commission from
retail affiliation schemes (Storage Depot, Amazon), foundation membership
fees and most recently the State of the Map conference (registration fees
and sponsorship).

I try to personally acknowledge all donations and, where possible, give an
indication of how that donation is likely to be spent.

Not all funding gets channelled through the Foundation.  For example
MultiMap funds Steve Coast directly to spend some of his time working on the
project.  Another example, the Foundation submitted a proposal to Digital
Pioneers and won funding to stimulate mapping parties in the Netherlands.
This funding goes directly to Stichting Vrijschrift, a Dutch non-profit
organisation, who actually have the responsibility for making the mapping
parties happen there.

The membership was polled about how the Foundation's income should be spent
and we received a mandate to spend 60% of income on hardware, 20% on
promotion and 20% on legal matters.  Currently, the Foundation's expenditure
is mainly on server hardware, although some is spent on activities that
promote the project (typically, travel expenses for speaking
engagements).    So far there have been no reasonable opportunities to spend
any funds on legal issues.

The project can always benefit from more hardware and this is where most of
the funding goes.  Personally, I am not keen on tapping contributors for
donations since they already made their donations of time and effort to add
map data.  In this respect my belief is that beneficiaries of the map data
should fund the project (see
http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/index.php/User:80n).  We are indeed starting
to see sponsorship from the likes of MultiMap, Google and Yahoo although the
reality is that we still need to rely on donations from contributors, and
judging by the funding model of projects like Wikipedia will probably always
need to.

Members of the Foundation are entitled to vote in the affairs of the
Foundation.  They have no special say in how the OpenStreetMap project is
run, just the running of the Foundation.  Anyone who wants to influence the
activities of the Foundation is welcome to join.

Currently the Foundation has exactly 60 members.  Over half of these have
joined in the last two months at the same time as signing up for the State
of the Map conference.

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