We’re helping to bring two of the largest open data projects closer together - OpenStreetMap and Wikidata. Wikidata is the free knowledge base that anyone can edit. It has grown to over 24 million entries of structured data, eclipsing Wikipedia in breadth. When we link this data to the 18 million uniquely named geographic features mapped with street-level accuracy on the OpenStreetMap project, the result is the largest spatial map of human knowledge ever created.

Animation of Wikidata features with a geographic coordinate crowdsourced over the last 3 years. Source: Wikidata map animations

To understand how we can leverage the combined data of both projects, let’s consider the example of Manali, a small town in the Himalayas. The properties we see for the feature on OpenStreetMap describe it as a town with a small population, along with its name translated in five languages.

The OpenStreetMap properties for Manali town.

When we link Manali to its corresponding Wikidata item we get access to much more information: its name in 28 languages, its elevation, a collection of freely licensed images of the town from Wikimedia Commons, a travel guide from Wikivoyage and encyclopedia articles about the town in 26 languages from Wikipedia. For a more comprehensive Wikidata entity, see the entry for Berlin which has over 300 properties describing various aspects of the city.

Improving the coverage of Wikidata tags on OpenStreetMap

The OpenStreetMap community has tagged over 360,000 features on OpenStreetMap with a Wikidata ID and is continuing to improve coverage by linking as many features as possible between the two projects. One of the immediate benefits of this effort is that it is now feasible to create world maps with translated and transliterated place names in many more languages.

Over the past two months, the data team at Mapbox has tagged over 8,000 OpenStreetMap features of cities and towns worldwide with their corresponding Wikidata IDs, ensuring that almost every major place in the world map has a link to the crowdsourced knowledge of Wikidata.

Wikidata tags added since October Over 11,000 Wikidata tags have been added to cities and towns on OpenStreetMap since October by the community and Mapbox.

Using Wikidata with Mapbox tools

Because of Wikidata’s unique ability to connect places to a wealth of freely licensed data, our Mapbox Geocoding API provides the Wikidata ID associated with a result, making it easy for software applications to go beyond the information we provide directly. Similarly, OpenStreetMap’s Wikidata tags make it possible for software that uses OpenStreetMap data to provide richer user experiences based on Wikidata.

For example, a mobile application can extract data from an OpenStreetMap-based Mapbox iOS SDK map and retrieve the corresponding Wikidata entry. For these features to be generally useful, Wikidata tags need to be added comprehensively throughout OpenStreetMap.

Contribute to an open world

If you are interested in contributing to this massive open knowledge effort, start tagging features in your hometown with the associated Wikipedia article in OpenStreetMap’s iD editor. Feel free to get in touch with me on Twitter if you have ideas and suggestions for improving the process for connecting OpenStreetMap and Wikidata.