OpenStreetMap (OSM) is a collaborative project to create a free editable map of the world. Two major driving forces behind the establishment and growth of OSM have been restrictions on use or availability of map information across much of the world and the advent of inexpensive portable satellite navigation devices.
The maps are created using data from portable GPS devices, aerial photography, other free sources or simply from local knowledge. Both rendered images and the vector dataset are available for download under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 licence.
The OpenStreetMap approach to mapping was inspired by sites such as Wikipedia; the map display features a prominent "Edit" link and a full revision history is maintained. Registered users can upload GPS track logs and edit the vector data using free GIS editing tools like JOSM. Various mobile applications also allow contribution of GPX tracks to the OSM project.
OpenStreetMap is a fully crowd-sourced, open-data map of the world. Although other web maps are available for free, what differentiates OSM from others is that all its data is available without restriction, and that it's fully editable, in a Wiki-like fashion.
Comprehensive mapping data is primordial when answering to social needs. Whether it is in the aftermath of a humanitarian crisis or in efforts to address the needs of poor neighborhoods in cities, detailed maps are a necessity. OpenStreetMap, due to its crowd-sourced format, contains a great quantity of up-to-date detail that is often not matched in other mapping services. Also, because its data is free, OSM can be used by organizations and individuals who want to use it to develop their own tools.
Organization like the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) work to ensure cooperation between the OSM community and humanitarian response agencies during times of crisis. HOT also works to ensure that vulnerable areas are properly mapped in an effort of prevention.
Many organizations, such as Apple or Foursquare, are starting to use OpenStreetMap data for their services, since it is free and often better documented.
OpenStreetMap was founded in 2004 by Steve Coast, a computer scientist from England. The OpenStreetMap Foundation was created two years later to promote the growth of OSF.
OpenStreetMap, and the OpenStreetMap Foundation are not-for-profit entities. Companies such as CloudMade use the free data available in OSM in to offer for-profit services (such as games and smartphone apps) to individuals and enterprises.