OpenStreetMap Gets First Major Funding From Knight News Challenge

Published on September 20, 2012
by Liz Gannes

OpenStreetMap, the increasingly popular Wikipedia-like project to create a map of the world — it’s now used by Apple, Foursquare and others — has gotten its first major funding grant.

Knight News ChallengeĀ is putting $575,000 into the project, as a stipend paid to employees of OSM developer MapBox to work on core tools.

OSM, which was founded in 2004, has subsisted so far on volunteer services, membership drives and other donations. It’s not nearly close to the scale of Wikipedia, whose global efforts are coordinated by a large full-time Wikimedia Foundation staff.

The Knight funding came out of a grant application from MapBox to create tools that make it easier for people to add to OSM maps, monitor areas of interest and make custom maps. The Washington, D.C.-based company also plans to improve the OSM community site, according to MapBox CEO Eric Gundersen.

Gundersen said he is devoting a significant portion of the MapBox team to the project, and is aiming to release the first products next spring. He plans to build out in public as open-source projects on GitHub.

MapBox’s main product is a platform for publishing maps based on OSM that is used by Foursquare, NPR and others as an alternative to the Google Maps API. So, better data collection tools will help the company directly. “It’s not about the maps, it’s about the data,” Gundersen said.

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