In the first 10 years of OpenStreetMap, hundreds of thousands of people have mapped 25
million miles of roads in every country in the world. Here is a look back at
how the most detailed map of the world started.
This area near Koblenz, Germany exemplifies the process.
In a way analogous to how cities themselves grow,
volunteer mappers began with a bare framework of major roads and
then worked outward to fill in adjacent areas with ever-increasing detail.
Looking closer at cities highlights that even once the map is “complete,”
it is never really done.
This view of Manila shows that the streets of the city were nearly all mapped
in the first few years, but refinement of detail has never ceased.
Many US cities cut short the early stages of the process by importing
street data from the Census Bureau’s TIGER maps. This view of
eastern Los Angeles shows the rapid import after an initial period of
purely community mapping, followed by ongoing extensive community work
to clean up the imported data.
Finally, an overview of Japan shows how an entire country comes to be mapped.
Tokyo fills in first, followed by other major cities and the roads connecting them,
and then a series of waves of activity adding more rural areas and further
enhancing the urban detail.