Archives for Open Source

  1. Chris Weaver - today's featured MapQuest Dev.

    Some days it can be a difficult task to overcome writer’s block and other days, like today, you’re asked to write about an awesome new service and blogging comes easy. So without further ado, I present you with draggable bike routes for our new Open JavaScript SDK!

    The customization that drag routing on open data allows is by far superior to anything we’ve ever had (of course, until our next update). You’ll also see below that implementing this is a snap. But first, a special thank you goes out to our Systems Architect, Chris Weaver, who has put forth a significant effort to help support the Open JavaScript SDK and the new bike routing options!

    Now in order to fully understand the benefits of this service, let’s take a look at some of the main user concerns and what MapQuest can do to address them.

    Map is Missing Data

    Know a shortcut specific to cyclists/pedestrians? Add it to OpenStreetMap (OSM)! The new data will then be picked up by the MapQuest servers so you and everyone else will be able to drag route on the new bike path. If you need assistance with adding bike paths in OSM, be sure to check out this great tutorial over at Cyclelicous.

    Missing shortcut (walkway) for cyclists!? Just add it!

    Altering the Bike Route

    If you plan on biking in Alexandria, VA, and you suddenly crave frozen custards from The Dairy Godmother (my favorite!), simply drag the route to your desired location. Both the route and POI locations are draggable and can help you with all your last minute customization needs.

    Customizing the route by dragging it farther south.

    Printing Out Directions

    As expected, the SDK can return a narrative of the OSM directions which can then be used as a cue sheet for your ride. If you need to customize it further by drag-routing, no problem! The directions will also get updated automatically.

    The directions update as the route gets dragged.

    Also of note is when dragging the bike route, the algorithm is smart enough to only route you on a bike friendly path. For example, trying to drag your route on an interstate or areas where bicycle access is set to false in OSM will fail.

    As you can see, there’s really no excuse now for you to not develop a savvy MapQuest application that spits out great bike routes… ok, so maybe there’s always room for improvement! We already have other bike routing features in the works so please stay tuned. Thanks to everyone who’s already provided feedback and the cycling community for embracing our services!

    And in case you’re wondering, drag routing is also available for both driving and walking directions. Just make sure to add:


    Simple as that!

  2. Do you remember when the announcements of the MapQuest-OpenStreetMap (OSM) tiles and style files were a big deal? Or when you all grew ecstatic when we added routing to your OSM contributions?? Well, we’re not stopping yet! We’re here to confirm once again that MapQuest is taking OpenStreetMap very seriously.

    Announced today at Navigation Strategies USA by Randy Meech, head of engineering for local & mapping at AOL, we’re officially launching: 1) The Open Guidance Service that allows you to create your own real-time, turn-by-turn navigation application based entirely on OpenStreetMap!! 2) The Open JavaScript SDK using strictly the MapQuest Open Services! And, 3) Open Aerial Tiles!

    Open Guidance Service

    A real-time, turn-by-turn navigation app!? How can this be done? Guidance, as seen in the Developer’s Guide, is the beefier, bulkier brother of the Open Directions Service and contains additional raw data associated with the route. One of the key differences is that it can also return speed and intersection costs per road segment that allow real-time guidance for navigation applications to more accurately estimate the time until the next maneuver.

    For example, take a simple route like the following:,-121.911233&to=37.339409,-121.893904&narrativeType=text

    Response snippet:

    {"infoCollection":["Turn left on McCarthy Boulevard",
    "Turn LEFT onto McCarthy Boulevard."],

    Referring back to the documentation, you’ll note that maneuverType displays which type of maneuver action should be taken (4=turn left), turnCost displays the number of seconds it takes to transition between successive links along the route, and infoCollection provides both a text-to-speech narrative and a display-ready narrative.

    Keep in mind the above GuidanceNodeCollection is just a small portion of the response returned. The service can also return GuidanceLinkCollection, GuidanceExitCollection, GuidanceRoadInfoCollection, and loads of other details that help provide the means necessary to develop a navigation application.

    Open JavaScript SDK

    OpenStreetMap has already changed the face of mapping, and it continued its march on today as a potential main data source for a real-time navigation application. Because OSM is to be taken seriously, we are proud to release our very first Open SDK!

    This toolkit grabs the Open tiles created from OpenStreetMap and allows developers to add interactivity to their maps, generate Points of Interests, produce advanced routing between two or more points, do a Nominatim search, plus numerous other features found on

    To get started with your own mapping application, simply follow the Basic Map documentation, then spruce it up by adding Controls and POIs/InfoWindows. Like all of MapQuest’s other Open Initiatives, an AppKey is not necessary and you’ll be able to dive directly into the SDK.

    Identical to the Open Directions Service, the routing options for the toolkit include crowd-pleasers such as multipoint routing, ability to avoid specific road types, and my personal favorite, bike routes! Full documentation is available here.

    Sample bike route using the new Open JavaScript SDK.

    Open Aerial Tiles

    As if the above announcements aren’t enough, we’re also releasing a new open tileset combining the best of the freely available satellite imagery and aerial photography! The data thus far has mostly been collected from places such as the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the National Agriculture Imagery Program.

    Flatiron Building in NYC on Open Aerial Tiles.

    It currently offers global imagery at a 30-meter resolution and up to 1-meter for the United States. The service itself is still very much in its early stages as we continue to augment the initial dataset with more and improved data.

    However, if you’d like to begin using the Open Aerial Tiles now or in the early stages, the process is very similar to using OpenStreetMap tiles. The only change needed would be the tile URLs.

    OpenStreetMap Tile URL:
    MapQuest-OSM Tile URL:
    MapQuest-Open Aerial Tiles URL:

    Whew! Amazingly, that’s all we have for now and there are no more new announcements for the day. We hope you take advantage of some of the aforementioned Open Services and share with us what you’ve been developing. Questions and feedback are always welcomed on the Open Forums as well as on Twitter @MapQuestTech.


    Today, the MapQuest team launched the much anticipated site in the Open series: good ol’ US of A!  Just like the 10 other international sites we’ve released since July 2010, this one is focused specifically on the United States and uses OpenStreetMap (OSM) data.  We’ve included all the great tools and features that you’ve become used to in the other open.mapquest.* sites:

    - Map tiles updated every 15 minutes
    - Search results updated every 5 minutes
    - Driving directions updated daily
    - Draggable routes
    - Sharing and “send to” options
    - Right click anywhere on the map
    - Linking directly to Potlatch 2 or JOSM for easy editing
    - Map Toolbar for easy searching – including the ‘Places to Give’ icon
    - 11 different languages to choose from: English, British English, Danish, Dutch, French, Canadian French, German, Italian, Latin American Spanish, Portuguese Spanish and Swedish

    Reporting Map and Route Errors (Bugs):

    With our release today we’ve added a new feature that empowers every user to become an OSM contributor instantly: the ability to report on any map or route errors you see. No time to sign in and edit? No worries – you can report a bug without signing in – simply select the “report an error” link and fill out the information in the bug reporting window. The data error will be captured and waiting for you or anyone else to fix using the Potlatch 2 map editing tool. The error reporting tool uses Skobbler’s MapDust API to log and show errors (map or route data bugs) on the map that have been entered by people around the world.

    report an error - left pane search result

    report an error or edit this location - map pop-up window

    To view data errors in your map, click on the ladybug icon in the map toolbar (hovering over the ladybug icon will show the text: ‘Reported Bugs’) and if there are errors close by, they will be illustrated by the red ladybug icons. Click on the icon(s) displayed on the map to activate a popup window which contains the logged data error information.  Also within that popup window, are links to correct the error in Potlatch 2 or JOSM.

    report bug icon on map toolbar

    sample of a map error bug report

    We’re showing these map and route errors to make the data even better in the U.S. and throughout the world – but we need your help with improving and fixing the underlying OSM data!  If you’d like a quick read on how to choose the right editor for you or find out more about editing OpenStreetMap data, click on:

    Nominatim Update:

    But, we’re not done with our Open Source presents – we have more! We updated the Nominatim Search Service API to now include a local (bounded) search, a route search, a facility search and much, much more!  The Nominatim Developer’s Guide has also been enhanced to include new samples, which combine searching and routing using the Open Directions Service (see: Search Along a Route) and new parameters.  Click here for more information on the MapQuest Developer Network.‬

    Potlatch 2 Updates:

    We now have the latest and greatest build of the Potlatch 2 Map Editing Tool! This latest enhancement includes additional speed limits, new icons for roads and paths in the left pane menu along with more features added, joining of nodes onto existing ways, tagging multiple roads or POIs all at once and lots of bug fixes too. Look at the latest version here! We’d love your feedback on Potlatch 2 in general and if you’re available to do detailed testing using the Flash Debug Player, more information can be found here to help test.

    Map Style Updates:

    More and more updates! Many map style updates are included in our release today:  improved display of house numbers,buildings and grassy areas (such as within a zoo), labeling of one way street arrows and adding colors to foot paths and cycleways.

    Happy Mapping Days!

    enclosure shading in zoo

    improved house number labeling

    foot paths and cycleways style update

  4. OpenStreetMap: Be your own Cartographer
    by Jonathan Bennett

    OpenStreetMap: Be your own Cartographer is another must-have for any map lover, whether or not they currently have any knowledge of OpenStreetMap (OSM). It’s well written, nicely organized, and is a great introduction (and beyond) to the entire OSM project.

    The book begins with a brief history of OSM, an introduction to the OSM website, links to internet resources, and everything else to help you hit the ground running. Once you’re feeling comfortable enough to begin contributing and becoming a mapper, the book provides you with information on GPS surveying, data tagging, and various mapping/editing techniques. Three popular editors — Potlatch, JOSM, Merkaartor — are also covered in depth, helping to choose the right editor for the reader.

    Developers and mapping specialists will especially appreciate the latter half of the book where Bennett explores ways to publish your own customized maps using the OSM export tool, Kosmos, and Osmarender. Entire chapters are also devoted to accessing raw OSM data and its API, and manipulating OSM data with Osmosis to fit your needs.

    Overall, OpenStreetMap: Be your own Cartographer, is balanced in a way that isn’t too dense and still covers the key highlights of OSM. It should be noted that this book reads easily and new users will benefit tremendously having just read the beginning few sections. Like OpenStreetMap: Using and Enhancing the Free Map of the World, this book is a valuable OSM resource and makes for an excellent gift for everyone this holiday season!

    MapQuest was fortunate enough to have a moment with Jonathan Bennett and have him speak with us about OpenStreetMap: Be your own Cartographer.

    How did you first get involved with OpenStreetMap?  Did you ever envision it becoming as successful as it is today?

    I was in a similar situation to many people who get involved in OpenStreetMap: I had a smartphone and a Bluetooth GPS receiver, and wanted to use them for navigation, particularly for off-road cycling. There was no easy, legal way of doing this, but OpenStreetMap offered a promise, even if in those early days the data wasn’t there.

    I don’t know whether I considered where OSM was going at first — all I was concerned with was whether it would allow me to do what I wanted to do, which was countryside mapping for walking and biking. I did add other features besides the ones I was interested in, and by the time other people started mapping in the same area, it was clear we could do far more with OpenStreetMap than just roads and paths.

    As an early adopter of OSM, can you tell us what it was like to add and edit data back then?  Was there much standardization at all?

    Starting with an almost blank canvas was lots of fun, and made every mapping trip easy and worthwhile. There was no aerial imagery or other data for the area I was mapping, so I did everything on foot or by bike.

    The most common features such as road types were already pretty standardised but there were things people just hadn’t got around to mapping yet. As an example, there are lots of turning circles in the roads around where I live, but there was no existing tag for these, so I just went ahead and created one. Now there are hundreds of thousands of them in OpenStreetMap.

    Is your own personal experience what motivated you to write OpenStreetMap: Be your own Cartographer?

    I’ve been writing about technology for 15 years, so condensing everything I’d learned about OpenStreetMap into a book seemed an obvious move. While everyone working on OpenStreetMap’s software does their best to write and maintain documentation for the bits they’re responsible for, having a coherent set of documentation is a lot harder. Also, while online documentation is fine if you’re just trying to get a single task done, it’s easier to get an overall picture of a project like OpenStreetMap from a book that ties all the pieces together.

    I hope my book makes it easier both to understand OpenStreetMap as a whole, and to know how to use the data for specific purposes.

    What do you hope people will get out of your book?

    The book is aimed at people who have little or no experience of OpenStreetMap, but are interested in creating and using the data. They may just want it for personal use, like many of us, or they could be working in a company that uses proprietary geodata and is looking for a better solution, or they could be in a local government GIS department.

    I’ve tried to keep the book light and easy to read — it’s more to show you examples of the kinds of things that are possible with OpenStreetMap, rather than an exhaustive listing of every last option in every piece of software.

    The printed version is less than 15mm thick (that’s half an inch if you’re in the US), so it’s the sort of book you can carry around and just dip into when you have a few spare minutes.

    And finally, we’d like to ask the same question we asked Frederik Ramm, Jochen Topf and Steve Chilton.  Where do you think OSM will be in another 5 years when it’s 2015?

    The great thing about OpenStreetMap is that it allows people to use the data and tools for things you’d never be able to predict, so I’m not going to try to say what people will be doing with OSM. What I think we will see is better integration between all the different parts of the project. We’re already seeing the start of this, with bug trackers appearing in editors so that mappers can find, fix and close bugs in the data from a single application, and we should see other types of quality assurance tools like TagInfo being brought into editors as well.

    What I hope we’ll get better at is making it easy for a fledgling mapping community in other countries to get going. Things like localising the tools and services, and adapting tagging conventions to each country need to be easier, so that mappers spend more time mapping, and less time fiddling with the tools.

    We wanted to thank Jonathan Bennett for allowing us to interview him and talk to us about his latest book. Be sure to check it out!

    A special thanks to Kumiko Yamazaki for helping write this review!

    About the Author

    Hurricane is my real name. I live and breathe maps, mapping and OpenStreetMap. I love good food, great wine and friends with an opinion in life!
  5. OpenStreetMap: Using and Enhancing the Free Map of the World
    by Frederik Ramm, Jochen Topf, Steve Chilton

    Originally published in German, OpenStreetMap: Using and Enhancing the Free Map of the World was first made available in English in September 2010. This book provides a comprehensive overview of OpenStreetMap (OSM) and has become a valuable reference for many mappers.

    The first half of the book proves to be an excellent source for users who wish to learn about the OSM project, collect data using a GPS, and edit and tag data. You’ll find bits and pieces of similar information on the OSM Wiki but if you’re looking for a more complete and fluid version, this is it. Everything is explained thoroughly and followed by examples and screenshots.

    In the second half, the book takes a break from editing and contributing to OSM and instead allows you take advantage of all the hard work that you and everyone else has put in. Users will learn about customizing and publishing their maps through Mapnik, Osmarender, Kosmos, and even uploading your OSM map to a mobile or navigation device.

    Also included is the section titled “Hacking OpenStreetMap” with over 60 pages devoted to learning about the OSM database server and its API. This will aid you in writing your own OSM software, using Osmosis to filter the data, and when you’re ready for it, setting up your own OSM server!

    This book is the perfect gift for map lovers, GPS addicts, cartographers, GIS professionals, developers, etc, and should be added to their library collection this holiday season. MapQuest was fortunate enough to have a moment with one of the authors, Frederik Ramm, and have him speak with us about OpenStreetMap: Using and Enhancing the Free Map of the World.

    Can you tell us a little about your OpenStreetMap background?  How did you first hear about the project and what caused you to become so obsessed? OSM is an obsession, correct?

    I’d certainly say it is an obsession – albeit often an obsession with the negative! You become obsessed with data that isn’t (yet) there, with software that nobody has (yet) written, or with bugs that haven’t been fixed. You start helping out a little, and before you know it you’re “the guy who edits this area”, or “the maintainer of that editor”. That’s indeed how I got started with OSM – Jochen told me he was getting involved in that great project but how the Java editor was causing him pain, and so I thought I’d have a look if I can fix it…

    The book, OpenStreetMap: Using and Enhancing the Free Map of the World, seems to encompass a little bit of everything.  Is it safe to say that both beginners and advanced users of OSM will find value in it?

    You bet. The book has four major sections – the first one is basically the “management overview” about OSM, stuff you can read without getting your hands dirty and nice pictures you can look at. The next section then is about contributing to OSM – about mapping and editors, from simple map features to the most complicated multipolygon relation. Then we have a section about mapmaking which is already a more advanced topic, and we top it off with a section on hacking that covers technical details down to the last API call. I should be surprised if there’s anyone in OSM who does *not* find anything new in the book. Being but one of three authors, I certainly did!

    What were some of the challenges faced when translating this book from German to English?

    It was difficult to find a publisher who would produce the book in the way we wanted it to. Jochen and I are book lovers. (Jochen can hardly visit any book store without carrying away a stack of books!) We thought that we had a brilliant book and we wanted it to look brilliant, too. We wanted it printed on the right stock, we wanted the same glossy color pages in the middle that we had for the German edition… that was certainly something that made things more difficult. Once that was settled though, the actual translation was straightforward – even though I sometimes think that writing a new book would have been easier. We had to re-do all the screen shots and many illustrations of course, and our co-author Steve Chilton from England did a great job at helping us to identify situations where our German OSM background had led us to make assumptions that were not universally true, or where we had chosen examples that someone in the US or the UK might not be familiar with. After the whole thing had undergone cross-checking by a few other helpful OSMers and the obligatory proof-reading at the publisher’s, I felt we had so many improvements over the German edition that I started to translate some of them back for the next German re-print!

    Edits and editing tools are constantly being contributed to OSM.  How are you able to keep up?  Will there be another edition of the book, and is it already being worked on?

    We have a book web site ( where we inform readers about anything major they should be aware of. The German book is now in its third edition, with roughly one new edition being published every year. We can’t yet say if it will be the same for the English version
    but if the community likes our book as much as we do, I would not be surprised to see a second edition in late 2011.

    We all know OSM has already come a long way in just 5 years.  Where do you think OSM will be in another 5 years when it’s 2015?

    I think that OSM will be an everyday commodity in 2015. A little bit like Wikipedia is today – you don’t need to think if you want to look something up, you go straight to Wikipedia. In 2015, if you say you’re using or even involved in OSM, people won’t say “oh, that’s interesting, tell me something about it” but they’ll say, yawning: “who isn’t?”.

    And, of course, there will be about 20 books about the topic!

    There you have it! We very much appreciated having Frederik Ramm answer a few questions for us. Please remember to visit to learn more about this publication.

    Coming soon: Holiday Gift Idea #2 – OpenStreetMap: Be your own Cartographer.

    A special thanks to Kumiko Yamazaki for helping write this review!

    About the Author

    Hurricane is my real name. I live and breathe maps, mapping and OpenStreetMap. I love good food, great wine and friends with an opinion in life!
  6. Performance Boosts

    We recently spent some time doing a bunch of back-end cleanup by removing old code, dead code, defunct code, and what have you. In other words, critical updates that never receive any love! These updates will mostly only affect the Open Directions Service and Open Elevation Service but has led to performance increases for the said services.

    Also, while the previous restriction to the Open Elevation Service has not been entirely lifted, we did increase the maximum allowed distance to 250 miles (~400 kilometers). You can still make multiple calls to the service however, if you wish to request elevation for a longer route.

    Newly restructured sidebar

    Developer Network Updates

    One of the main challenges users have had with the MapQuest Developer Network was with navigation. You may have heard about our recent launches of Potlatch 2 or the TIGER Edited Map Viewer, but have had difficulties finding it. Aside from linking it here on our Developer Blog, many of our products and services for our Open Initiatives especially, had remained buried several links deep. This is no longer the case.

    We’ve restructured the menu for easier, more intuitive navigation, and added direct links to some of our most popular products on the main page.

    There’s also now a separate OpenStreetMap Tools & Guides section which acts as a one-stop shop for helping both beginners and advanced users with contributing and improving OSM. If you haven’t already done so, be sure to check out the Beginner’s Guide to OpenStreetMap and the Potlatch 2 Primer. Pass it along to your friends and get them involved (and addicted)!

  7. Maybe you’ve already heard, but we have yet another major announcement for our Open Initiatives project! The Open Elevation Service now joins the Open Directions Service and Nominatim Search Service as services that are based entirely on open data!

    I’ve already talked a bit about the Elevation Service in the past (here and here) and below is another example of an elevation chart and a short summary of the service in case you’ve forgotten or (gasp!) missed my previous posts:

    Elevation chart from Vancouver, CN to Seattle, WA

    • Generates an elevation chart in a customizable size
    • Provides elevation profile information (elevation and distance) in JSON or XML formats
    • Distance values returned in miles or kilometers
    • Shape format represented as float pairs or compressed path string with 5 and 6 digits of precision

    So where is the data coming from? The Open Elevation Service is powered by the SRTM V2 data (“finished” version). SRTM (Shuttle Radar Topography Mission) is the international project headed by NASA that helped capture high-resolution topographic data of the Earth. In the U.S., data resolution is approximately 30 meters and 90 meters for the rest of the world.

    If you need more information, you know where to go – the Developer’s Guide! We hope you enjoy the new Open Elevation Service as we continue to roll out new features. As always, go ahead and combine Elevation with the Open Directions Service or Nominatim for the truly Open Experience! Just remember they are all still in Beta and providing feedback can only help improve these services.


  8. We’re pleased to announce our latest service for the MapQuest Open Initiatives project: Bike Routes! Temperatures are dropping but fair weather cyclists, take your bikes out and enjoy the beautiful cool crisp autumn air! It is never too late in the season to go biking.

    If you’re already familiar with the Open Directions Service, then you’ll know that this service is based entirely on OpenStreetMap data. You’ll also find that adding bike routes to your directions search is extremely easy to implement. For example, if you were searching for directions from Thoreau Middle School in Vienna, VA, to Idylwood Park in Falls Church, VA, you would say:,-77.241899&to=38.89162,-77.211376&routeType=shortest

    Simply change routeType=shortest to routeType=bicycle.,-77.241899&to=38.89162,-77.211376&routeType=bicycle

    Here’s a comparison of the results for the same route. Note the difference as the bike route option attempts to provide a more bike friendly route by avoiding major roads and even jumps on the W&OD Trail, a popular paved multi-use trail in Northern Virginia!

    Directions using routeType=shortest.

    Directions using routeType=bicycle.

    If you’re asking yourself, “what does MapQuest mean when they claim a more bike friendly route?” Well, we will route you on paths that are not vehicle accessible and also try to not let you do anything illegal, like riding on an interstate : ) On a more serious note, the following list provides some specific rules that are applied to bike routes:

    • Avoids roads where bicycle access in OpenStreetMap is set to false
    • Avoids all limited access highways
    • Favors bike specific paths (road segments that have bicycle access only – no auto or pedestrian)
    • Favors walkways with no auto access
    • Applies various weights to roads based on the maxspeed tag (ex. favors routes where maxspeed <= 30 mph)

    Elevation chart combining the Bike Routes with the Open Elevation Service.

    Continuing with the Open theme, bike routes can also be combined with the Open Elevation Service. Remember, it’s still in Beta and we’d appreciate it if you can limit the routes to less than 200 miles. (I know, we apologize – you were looking forward to biking over 200 miles tomorrow, weren’t you?)

    Similar to all our other Open Services, no AppKey is necessary! What you will need, however, is a collection of lat/longs along its route to produce the elevation chart. Fortunately the above Open Directions request can provide the coordinates for us. With this info in hand, we can request Elevation with the following:

    The elevation chart is heavily dependent on the generalize parameter for the Open Directions Service. As you might expect, the higher the generalization, the more simplified the elevation chart becomes. Check out the Developer’s Guide to read more about the generalize parameter and shape simplifications under Advanced Routing Options and Parameters. And definitely stay tuned for more details regarding the Open Elevation Service!

  9. Thanks all for helping us with our open.mapquest.* sites embedded map icon survey!  We had 74 respondents from all over the world who completed the survey!  Here’s the breakdown by country: Argentina (1), Austria (1), Belgium (3), Brazil (1), Canada (1), Chile (1), Denmark (2), Finland (1), France (2), Germany (15), Hungary (1), Indonesia (1), Ireland (3), Italy (2), Japan (1), Netherlands (1), Norway (2), Poland (1), Spain (1), Switzerland (2), UK (12), US (16), and Unknown (3).

    We had some clear “winners” for the icon selections and had some very good additional requests as well! Here’s the textual breakdown in a pretty chart format showing the top selections.  Some of the additional map icon requests were quite interesting!  Take a gander at a portion of the additional icon requests that we collected:

    benches, better pedestrian streets, prominent footways, bicycle parking, bike shop, charity shops, coffee shops, confectionery, diving, drinking water (drinking fountain), fire hydrant, nodes of the cycle network, places of worship, police station, power generators, public washrooms, recreational/hiking/biking paths and trails, schools, social media, stadium, toilets, tourist attractions, towers, tram stop, bus stop, UFO sighting, wind turbines

    As we expand our existing map styles to include the new icons, I’m sure we’ll be able to make updates to bring in a lot of the requests listed above too!  However, not so sure that we’ll be able to do the UFO sightings because there doesn’t seem to be any in OSM yet, according to the Taginfo site!

    Thanks again for voting and here’s a link to our Developer Network showing all the latest news on MapQuest’s Open Source Project!

  10. As per usual I have a ton of updates, and what seems to be very little time in which to write it all down.  Therefore, at a breakneck pace, and with a casual disregard for grammer and spulling.. here we go:

    For the record, OSM = OpenStreetMap – read about it on the first draft version of our MapQuest Guide to OpenStreetMap.

    Directions Service Update:

    Since last I blogged, we’ve added Oceania and India to the routing database – so you should be able to get directions in those areas. The directions data on the Open sites and on the developer web service now updates daily! (Hurrah!).   That seemed very short to write, and doesn’t quite convey the monumental effort involved in getting the daily updates working and stable.  If you are not yet familiar with the OSM-powered directions service, it can be found at

    Perth to Sydney

    directions from Perth to Sydney

    multi-piont route across India

    multi-point route across India

    Nomimatim Search Service:

    Nominatim is the main search web service used by OSM and developed by Brian Quinion.  Since pretty much anyone who wants to search OSM uses Nominatim, and the copy hosted on the OSM website needs to have usage limits, we thought it would be helpful to stand up a copy too, to share some of the load.  There are no usage limits at this time.  There is no need for keys or registration, and works exactly the same way as the one on OSM (because the point is that it IS the same as the one on OSM! Open Source FTW!)

    The Nominatim service can be found at

    It works just like any other web service – querystring parameters go in, and results come out in JSON or XML. If you don’t specify a format, you actually get a rather handy little search interface using openLayers.  Also, like the other web services we host, going to the base URL displays the documentation – so if ever you get lost figuring out how to use it, just back up the address until documentation appears.

    Potlatch 2 OSM Map Editor (Beta. Pre-Beta. More sorta Alpha.):

    We are now hosting a copy of Potlatch 2, the new (still very beta) OSM Map Editor tool as well.  The tool itself can be found at  We’ve created a primer to give some basic help, found here on our Developer Network.

    Potlatch 2 is the new version of the flash-based map editing tool on OSM.  Anyone who is familiar with OSM and with editing the map, is probably familiar with Potlatch – it’s what comes up when you click the edit button above the map on OSM, and then lets you draw or move roads, add points of interest, and generally add to, or edit, the map itself.  As a side note (because I find it fascinating) Richard Fairhurst, the creator, called it Potlatch after the indian gift-giving ceremony.

    The new one has been (and still is) in development for quite some time, but is starting to get close to “prime time.”  It was featured last week on the Project Of the Week and caused much great feedback that the developers are applying, even as we speak.

    Potlatch 2 Editor

    Potlach 2 Editor

    It is important to understand that this editing tool is still very much under development, but it IS functional and usable.  It will be upgraded, enhanced, fleshed out, and have increasing documentation as we, and the community, contribute to its growth. Once again, its a completely open source tool, released under my absolutely favourite license.  No I’m not telling, go find it.  Anyone can contribute to its growth, or install it themselves on their own sites.

    For those who are new, and have never edited before, I feel I should ask for patience when it comes to signing up, and getting the editor registered.  Don’t panic, here’s a quick cheat sheet of what’s going on:

    1) In order to edit, you need to have an OSM account.  You can create one ahead of time by going here:

    2) When you create that account, it will send you an email, that you must then confirm by clicking on the link in the email they will send to you.  When you confirm, it will open a page of account settings.  Don’t worry – you don’t have to do anything here (although its really cool if you do).

    3) When you sign into the Potlatch 2 editor for the first time, its going to give you a link that sends you back to the OSM website again – Log in on the OSM site with the name/password you just created, and OSM will ask you to confirm that you are OK with Potlatch 2 being able to do things for you.  Once you confirm that, you should be good to go.

    4) Congratulations! you are now part of the OSM community, and empowered to edit the map! I highly recommend reading the primer, and also checking out the map features page on the OSM Wiki.

    TIGER Edited Map Viewer:

    In 2007 the free US government map data (AKA TIGER) was imported into OSM.  Unfortunately that was a large amount of data, and a lot of it is inaccurate.

    Basically this map shows how much of the US map is unchanged from that original TIGER import in 2007 in red, and how much of the map has been touched by someone, since, in green.  Our goal, as members of the OSM community, is to turn all the red roads into green roads. You can read more about the project here.  You can go here to see the TIGER Edited Map Viewer

    A big thanks to Matt Amos who originally built this TIGER tool and has helped us reinstate it.

    TIGER Edited Map viewer
    TIGER Edited Map viewer

    If you use the Potlatch 2 editor, you can also turn the TIGER Edited Map on as a background layer to help you know which roads need attention.  There’s a few very simple things anyone can do to help clean up the map in their neighbourhood!

    • Turn on the aerial imagery background and make sure the streets are actually aligned with reality.
    • Un-abbreviate the street names (OSM likes fill street names – south instead of S. or Road instead of Rd).
    • Check that the road classification is good.  Many, many roads were imported with the tag “highway=residential” which is meant for streets full of houses (like suburbia) – when instead many of them should be “highway=tertiary” (larger streets that connect suburban developments for example) or “highway=service” and “service=alley” (this problem is especially rampant in city areas where all the alleys that run down the backs of the houses are incorrectly tagged).
    • For roads that end in turning circles, you can select the last point that makes up drawing the road, make sure its positioned in the center of the circle shown on the aerial imagery, and add the tag of “highway=turning_circle”.
    • Once you think the road is good, then find the tag on it that says “tiger:reviewed=no” and change it to say ‘Yes’…because you’ve just reviewed it!

    Unfixed alleys from TIGER import

    Alleys after they've been fixed

    Alleys after they've been fixed

    Well that’s all I’ve got for now.  Thanks to everyone involved in getting these things together and out, including Brian Quinion, Andy Allan, Matt Amos, Casey Doerschuk, Greg Knisely, Caryn Hughes, Artem Pavlenko, Bob Rudi, Joe Barbara, Hurricane Coast, Thea Clay, Kumiko Yamazaki, Duane Gearhart, Richard Fairhurst, Cameron Thomas, Tom Hughes, Jessica Feaster, Richard Weait, and Dave Stubbs amongst others.  As usual when I mention names, beat me up if I forgot yours, and I’ll buy you a frosty beverage as recompense.

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