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OpenStreetMap (OSM), the “Wikipedia for maps” service that lets anyone update and edit online maps, is inviting companies to pay up to $20,000 a year to support the project and gain a seat on a newly formed advisory board.

For the uninitiated, OSM doesn’t garner the same kind of recognition as other digital map services, but alongside Google Maps, TomTom, and HERE, OSM constitutes one of the four major online mapping platforms.

The main reason OSM doesn’t have the same kind of mindshare as its peers is because it’s not designed as a front-end, consumer-focused service — it’s a completely open, free, editable map of the globe, with contributions emanating from millions of users globally. It’s more of a back-end that serves as the building blocks for third-party services to create map-centric features on top of, such as turn-by-turn directions, voice navigation, and more. Many well-known applications use OSM, including  the mighty Apple; Foursquare; the now Telenav-owned Skobbler, which offers downloadable maps for use offline; and MapQuest.

Founded out of the U.K. in 2004, OSM is managed by the OpenStreetMap Foundation (OSMF), a not-for-profit that largely relies on donations from the public, as well as other public and private institutions. Back in 2014, OSM announced a corporate membership program, which was a way of soliciting support from companies that rely on OSM maps, who would pay £1,000 ($1,200) a year to become associated members. Now, OSM is ramping things up and introducing a myriad of tiers to cater to different budgets and requirements. The benefits are as follows;

  • Supporter: €500 ($550) — Name on OSMF website and attend general meetings.
  • Bronze: €1,500 ($1,630) — Same as Supporter, plus first dibs on sponsoring OSM’s annual “State of the Map” event.
  • Silver: € 4,000 ($4,370) — Same as Bronze, plus one joint press release each year.
  • Gold: €10,000 ($10,900) — Same as Silver, plus a seat on the OSMF advisory board.
  • Platinum: €20,000 ($21,800) — Same as Gold, plus can also invite another board member for an in-house OSM presentation.

What’s perhaps most notable here is that the OSMF now allows companies to pay to have a say in decision-making through gaining a seat on the advisory board, though it’s worth mentioning that this is separate from the main OSMF board, which is voted on entirely by OSMF members. For the record, OSM Foundation membership is a separate thing from corporate membership, and it lets anyone pay £15 ($18) a year to for the right to vote and generally support the OSM initiative.

Earlier this year, OSM was given a major boost when, a major GPS navigation app provider with tens of millions of users, announced that it was to begin letting its users edit OSM data directly within its own mobile apps. Up until then, OSM editing was carried out mainly through its own website, though there were a handful of third-party editing apps available on mobile. What brought to the table, however, was scale — OSM was put front and center on millions of devices.

The new OSMF corporate membership program will be effective from January 1, 2017.


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