back to article Free our data - open mapping comes of age

The UK's Ordnance Survey (OS) creates some of the world's best maps. Going far beyond mapping just the roads, OS provides some of the most detailed mapping, good for walkers, cyclists, and runners. The problem is, the OS has some onerous licensing restrictions that make it impossible for a lot of services to use its maps. The " …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
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    i work for a vehicle tracking company. having recently developed a new mapping search tool for our system, i found it impossibly hard to locate a reliable webservice or source to get postcode data from. royal mail want something like £3k/year, which gives you updates once every quarter or something. which is quite a lot really for what is basically a csv file about 10 mb's in size.

    i've ended up attempting to compile my own, with a mashup i developed by using mappoint (to which we are a subscriber to) for full length postal codes, but for shorter sector-based codes that royal mail's database will define, mappoint doesn't. but does (well, for the first sector it does). but that would mean i'd have to find another source of data for second sector codes. it's ridiculous! it makes it seemingly impossible, without having to pay through the nose, for a reliable service to get this data from one location, that is going to be complete.

    i fully stand by these open source/open development projects. these are what this internet (and country) needs. a location to build a reliable database of what some monopolizing arseholes want to charge you extortionate money for. good on you, guys!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Did you know that the OS maps all have deliberate mistakes in them, which allow OS to know if you rip them off. It's stuff like a church with a spire being listed as a church with a steeple. I wonder if any 'mistakes' will turn up in FOS maps?

  3. Anonymous Coward

    OS Map mashup

    Of course it's far from official, but any halfway-proficient Google Maps API developer can plug OS imagery into the GMaps UI with a modicum of work. That's the irony in all of this - Ordnance Survey hasn't stopped their maps from being used in ways they don't approve of.

    Postcodes are a similar story; Royal Mail owns your postcode, and you can't use it except at their pleasure. They have recently stopped Google from supplying postcode lookup through their geocoding API.

  4. Graham

    Automonous GPS error

    THis will not make near as good maps as conventional GPS' accuracy is rated at 10+m where pricy sub meter DGPS are very industry specific.

    At least I'm in a job for longer

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    mapping errors


    Yes, we know. And we know there are roadsigns with incorrect names and numbers. The explanation on mapping copyright comes early in the OSM getting started guide.


    Accurate to 10m+ and available is better for me than <1m but unavailable. IIRC the OS has to shift features to avoid overlap when printing anyway, so we won't see sub meter accuracy even if you do.

  6. lansalot

    Here's a suggestion

    The quickest of looks at their new site made me instantly wonder why they didn't have some very-well established streets (and we're talking centuries-old streets here) in my City Centre not on the map.

    This isn't a case of 'just not mapped yet', because I was part of the celebration marking GB being the first country in the world to be digitally mapped to what they defined as 'completion'. And the streets in question have been provided to subscribers for well over the last 10 years by OS themselves, in their landline and mastermap products. The addresses in them showed up in what was once called AddressPoint and of course in their successive product. So how come the streets aren't showing up ?

    Incidentally, as they're using OpenLayers on openstreetmap, it would take next to nothing for some enterprising individual to overlay google maps on top of their source, and simply trace through.... thus filling in the blanks OS have apparently put in themselves.

    What's up with that, OS ?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Royal Mail

    It's probably best to avoid asking RM about postcodes anyway regardless of price. I did some summer work in the sorting office before going to uni and they were trying to show us their flashy postcode lookup computer - they genuinely thought that this was something impressive - and they couldn't find my street. I lived 5 minutes WALK away from the sorting office.

    The best part was when the woman showing us tried to claim I'd got the address/postcode wrong while 10 yards away I could see mail being sorted by postcode for street that she said didn't exist.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Isn't it time we had something better than postcodes?

    Elementary common sense says that a single character error in any reference system should never, EVER, resolve to a valid address.

    We need something with a digit or two of redundancy to ensure a high probability of detecting a keying error.

    Above all, we need something that's in the public domain. It's not right that a single company in what is supposed to be a competitive service has a defacto monopoly on the addressing system.

  9. Law
    Paris Hilton

    re: Isn't it time we had something better than postcodes?

    We do... it's called email. Now we just need to find something more secure and less prone to spam and phishing.

  10. Anonymous Coward

    A solution for the Royal Mail....


    Here in Canada you can lookup any postal code for free. For a small fee (covering the cost of printing) you can get a printed book or even a datafile with the information. Makes sense, after all, we paid for it with our taxes and it makes life easier for the post office compared to having mail without codes being sent in the mail.

    That's the solution really.

    Start a campaign where everyone in the UK stops using the postcodes, until they are free to all.

    Force the blokes to sort them like old days..... soon they'll be begging to give you post codes for free.

    Cheers !

    PS Is it just me, or has Government, taxes, willingness to pay too much for everything, political correctness gotten a little out of control in the UK ? You went from a country that controlled half the planet to one that seems to be on the verge of collapsing under it's own bureaucrats.

    All we need to do is combine that with the "sue everyone" BS in the USA and the "Blame everyone else" BS that's becoming more common in Canada. and we could have a great place to live.... ugh.

    I used the "getting my coat" icon because It's no wonder why many people in the UK, including my cousins, are doing just that.

  11. Clive Galway

    Not just streets

    I wrote a google maps collaborative mapping app (Demo @ ) that I wanted UK county borders for. I tried to get hold of them, but was told that they were copyrighted by OS because they typically follow boundaries based upon things OS have surveyed.

    This is ridiculous. How can a company own the rights to our borders?

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