[OSM-talk] will we be nuked from orbit?

Frederik Ramm frederik at remote.org
Tue Jul 24 23:12:49 BST 2007


> Google don't get community (it's just the way they operate as a black  
> hole, witness picassa, blogger &c.)

But still there's a lot of people amassing on the sides and building 
value-added stuff for Google... "Google Groupies" if you will. There is 
a large community around Google Earth, it just doesn't influence the 

 > And to come
> back to the first point, it's unclear (and perhaps unlikely) that the  
> data will be licensed in any useful way.

I don't see TT as a big competitor for us. They are very navigation- 
focused. They may one day do navigation for cyclists or pedestrians but 
they'll do only stuff where they can sell devices, so they'll only cover 
mainstream. (Maybe we compete with them for surveyors, but not for users.)

And as for Google - who knows what they're aiming at. Sometimes I think 
they don't even know themselves. But without the shackles of their data 
licensors, I believe Google will come up with very innovative licensing 
models - allowing potential OSM users to retrieve what they need from 
Google, together with a license to use it in any proprietary way they 
like, for a few cents. This will draw all those evil evil business users 
who for some strange reason cannot just re-model their whole business at 
the whim of some geeks contributing to a free mapping project and would 
rather shell out a little money.

But of course these two are just the beginning. We might also see a 
market alliance where TT and a few other big Navigation players create 
an universal platform to upload changes to, maybe with some degree of QA 
built-in. (Heck, they could even use our Rails API and editors...)

 > That's just a fact. What we rely on to be the 'better'
> map are our community and the license. This could change any time  
> from within or without. On the one hand, our flamewars could get a  
> bit too hot and the community fragments or the license problem blows  
> up. On the other, if Google or TT change course a bit they could  
> license CC or start to think about communities. I don't think either  
> company will really care about killing OSM. And why should they? If  
> they release data in a useful way like we try to, then they have  
> completed our aims for us.

I think many OSMers view OSM (partly) as a "protest activity". You don't 
give us the data, ok, we'll make it ourselves... but if the data is one 
day handed out free, then we can use that and bin OSM.

> I don't know what any of this means yet, but I do think it's worth  
> thinking about. Perhaps worrying about. What do you think?

Suppose our "competitors" try and keep their data closed. They will at 
least help to educate people. We have heard that even today many people 
don't know about Wikipedia. In the future, when you present OSM to your 
fiancee's parents, you can say: "We're doing the same as TomTom does, 
only so that everybody can use the results and not only TomTom". More 
people will grasp the concept, and if only a tiny fraction of TomTom 
mappers convert to OSM, that will still be a benefit. Plus: Unless 
TomTom & Co. find some very clever and legally dubious ToCs, their 
surveyors will own the data and will have every right to make it 
available to OSM as well - and our clever OSM hackers will surely find 
ways to install software on the devices used so that anything being 
surveyed is "forked" - one copy for TT, one for us...

> 18 or 24 months ago Tom Carden said to me that OSM could be shut down  
> and we could start all over again with relative, /relative/, ease. I  
> still think he's right. 

I think so too.

 > If OSM restarted today, how would you run it?

The same as OSM of course! Everything was done perfectly from day one, 
why would one change one bit ;-) except for the license of course.

No, honestly, if I were to restart it today, I'd either set it up as a 
hobby thing much like it is now, or I'd write up a business plan (with 
references to TT's and Google's efforts that you wrote about) and go 
knocking on the doors of people with money. The plan would of course 
build on seducing individuals to map streets instead of playing computer 
games to climb up some kind of ladder set up to keep them addicted, 
granting people unlimited noncommercial use and keeping the commercial 
returns for myself. I'd sell the whole thing to Google after a few years 
and never work again.


Frederik Ramm  ##  eMail frederik at remote.org  ##  N49°00.09' E008°23.33'

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