Not long ago I was talking to a friend, and I mentioned OpenStreetMap. I was surprised to learn that he had never heard of it before.

OpenStreetMap is a freely available online map, similar to Bing maps or Google maps. The big difference is that OpenStreetMap is editable. Just like Wikipedia, it is edited by the online community. Everybody can upload GPS tracks, define roads, mark buildings, and so on. Even if you don’t have a GPS, you can help, for example by entering street names.

The advantage? If there is an active community, then OSM is very accurate and up-to-date. And what is an active community? Well, even one contributor is enough to map a smaller village. To see the difference I have two examples. The first one is the M43 motorway around Szeged, Hungary. The motorway was opened yesterday, and it is already shown on OSM (1st picture). However it is missing on Bing and Google maps (2nd and 3rd pictures).

Szeged on OpenStreetMap

Szeged on Bing maps

Szeged on Google maps

The second example is from Dieburg, Germany. Here a new underpass is constructed to replace the existing railway crossing. On OpenStreetMap you can see the current temporary layout. Furthermore you can identify more details, like buildings, car parks or cycle paths.

Dieburg on OpenStreetMap

Dieburg on Bing maps

Dieburg on Google maps