[OSM-talk] Beware Pokemon users

Toby Murray toby.murray at gmail.com
Sun Dec 25 17:17:14 UTC 2016

There was a video uploaded to YouTube a couple of days ago that claims to
show some possible evidence that Pokemon Go uses data from OSM to determine
good spawn locations for Pokemon. There are also several threads on reddit
under /r/TheSilphRoad that have similar claims. It is amusing to see their
speculation and methods of testing their "evidence" which include adding a
footway to OSM and then going out and playing Pokemon Go a couple hours
later so see if it affected anything.

Anyway, the theory being proposed is that highway=footway features in OSM
lead to increased Pokemon spawn activity. Also, nests are supposedly
located inside of recreation type landuse areas (golf course, park, play
ground, etc) This has led to some players attempting to influence the game
mechanics by, for example, adding a bunch of footways around their house.
While that is a relatively benign change, some others have taken to
retagging paths, cycleways and even residential roads to highway=footway.

I have been watching any changesets that come in with the word "pokemon" in
the changeset comments and have reverted a bunch of them. However I am
worried about users who may not be using changeset comments so I thought I
would at least let the wider community know that this is happening and if
you see any odd reclassification of features to highway=footway, this is
probably why. I have also seen some legit and useful edits so it isn't all

Some places where these discussions are happening:


I would call their evidence circumstantial at best.

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