OS OpenSpace at last !!

OS Openspace

The OS OpenSpace API has finally launched, just weeks before the deadline imposed by the Cabinet Office, with a alpha test phase with the system finally opening up early next year..

I’d love to see comments from anyone who is part of the alpha, but I guess they are under pretty strict NDA at the moment. [UPDATE 15/12 – There is no NDA, so I’m not sure why there are no examples]

One observation is the limit on the number of maps tiles which may be rendered for an API key, this is not something I have seen elsewhere, but I can understand it as a defence against accusations from commercial users of the data of unfairness.

Still is great to see something I put so much effort into during my time at the OS finally reaching the public.

Written and Submitted from the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Manama, Bahrain, using its wifi broadband network.

18 comments

  1. Simon

    This looks great. Beginning to use google maps more for work purposes but restricted by some of the license agreements – i.e. Some clients like Env Agency/Defra/etc want to show sensitive data on there intranet or via a login. This breaches GMaps license unless you go down the enterprise route.
    This OSOS looks very promising – id like to get in on the testing. Any ideas on costs for use on commercial purposes – Also, if our clients are PAN members, would that have any affect on license agreements?
    Good work.

  2. Ed

    Simon,

    My understanding from the press release is that the license is more restrictive than the Google Maps api, in that you are not allowed any commercial use. I’d love to know how you get on if you are selected to join the test..

  3. Bill Chadwick

    Hi Ed,

    What UK outdoor pursuits mashers want is the OS maps not yet another API that is not as good as Google’s. Also the OS API as currently described has maps but no imagery.

    Why can’t we simply have a not-for-profit OS map tile server – even hit limited if the OS want.

    Please OS, just put your tiles up on something like WMS or The Tile Map Service Specification (global-mercator) at http://wiki.osgeo.org/index.php/Tile_Map_Service_Specification (which looks pretty close to Googles scheme).

  4. Peter ter Haar

    Ed,

    The alpha developers are not under NDA, they just can’t share their API key. We’ll probably see a few articles and apps popping up over the next couple of days. Who’s first …

  5. Colin

    I was at the launch event today and can confirm that none of those invited to the closed alpha are under NDA! They can talk and blog freely about their experiences, in fact this is what Ordnance Survey wants.

  6. Ed

    Peter and Colin,

    I stand corrected.. so who was at the event, it seems strange that nobody has blogged their experiences yet or shown a screen-shot of the interface within an application ?

    Who from the press was at the launch event ?

  7. Paul Webster

    Not many seem to have noticed, but Multimap made OS 1:50k available through their Open API a month or so back. We’ve used it to put OS maps of walking routes on http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk – not sure why no-one else has done this.

    Will be very interested to see how the OS’ own version matches up – will there be 1:25k? The Multimap one does allow commercial use within limits – will the OS match this?

    Can I join the testing??!!!

  8. Simon

    @Paul
    Ive noticed this with Multimap but not really looked into the API and how easy it is to manipulate. So whats the deal with using it for commerical use? i.e. for projects for clients such as the E-Agency/DEFRA/Highways Agency?

    Ive done a bit of time trying to learn how to fiddle the GMap API with SQL and PHP, but the license agreement restricts me from doing anything useful with real-work projects.

  9. Martin

    This is excellent news – it’s been a long time coming!
    We’ve built a couple of sites that use OS maps via the multimap APi (walkswithbuggies.com and walkswithwheelchairs.com)

    I’ll be contacting OS tomorrow to see if we can get into the closed alpha… though according to their T&C’s it looks like we’ll have to stop using Adsense.

  10. Daniel

    Martin, are you meaning to tell us that a site owner would be restricted as to which ad-service they can use — if a certain API is utilized?

    I’ve been waiting for such a debate to occur, so this should get interesting. There’s another API out there that restricts AdSense use — which is why it’s interesting to see another one. (PS: There’s a reason I don’t use that API at all as a result.)

  11. Nick W

    I was at the launch event, so to answer a couple of questions…. no 1:25000 just yet unfortunately, but I do have a demo up at http://www.free-map.org.uk/openspace. I’ve overlaid a GeoRSS feed of map annotations (e.g. interesting views or path blockages) – part of the Freemap API (see http://www.free-map.org.uk/freemap/api.php) on the OS base map. Next to come will be the facility to allow people to add new annotations, though due to uncertainty regarding derived data, I’ll probably store those in a separate database for the moment.

  12. Colin

    @Simon
    Its interesting you should pose the question about doing work with clients, such as PGA members, and the use of the API. OS licensing allows for you to utilise OS data licensed by one of your clients. Therefore, if you do work for the Highways Agency then you can make use the data it licenses from OS to carry out that work. I’m not sure if this will include using the API to deliver this work. In the short term I suspect the answer is no, but longer term I believe there will be options available.

  13. Martin

    @Daniel
    I had a read through all the T&C’s on the openspace site, and they do not allow any financial gain ‘either direct or indirect’. Also on the FAQs it specifically says that they do not allow Adsense….

    So for us we need to work out if the potential Ad revenue is greater or smaller than the cost of using multimap (I’d use google maps if they did OS data) but Ed has told me that due to the very restrictive OS licensing demands, that’s unlikely to ever happen.

  14. Daniel

    This is the rub, Martin. The data thing — I can at least understand such a justification. But the ability for one to monetize his or her own site is fundamental in whatever system works for the monetization of one’s site. To limit such a thing as one’s ability to monetize in order to offset costs, is just a slap in the face — an insult.

  15. Colin

    @Daniel

    I don’t think the rule is intended as a slap in the face. Again the argument comes round to how OS has to license its data, something widely debated elsewhere and on this blog.

    Commercial organisations that make money from OS data have to pay license fees for that data. Those companies would not be happy if others were able to utilise the same data for free and make money from it. Therefore the T&C’s for OpenSpace try to recognise this and subsequently ban the monetisation from use of the API.

    What has been stated is that there is going to be a commercial upgrade path for use of the API which may, or may not, meet peoples requirements for funding the costs of web hosting etc. We shall just have to wait and see what the details of this upgrade path are!

  16. Paul Webster

    So no 1:25k maps, and very strict definitions of non-commercial.

    What exactly is / will be the advantage of OpenSpace over the Multimap free Open API (which is very easy to use, Simon)?

  17. Daniel

    Colin,

    How does one expect to offset server or hosting costs, if one has to pay a commercial fee to incorporate maps onto their Web site?

    That is the point to ad-services. It has absolutely nothing to do with what data is in a map. The map is an independent element within a Web page, thus — I’ll say it again — a slap in the face. One builds applications from the APIs in order to find attractive and interesting ways to pull people into visiting a Web site — and for whoever the lucky map service is chosen, then it’s hardcore promotion for them — not the site.

    Perhaps someone needs to realize that.

  18. Colin

    Daniel,

    Believe me, I understand the point you are making. I think part of the problem is that there is not enough distinction between a web site and a web page. For example, is it alright to use adsense on pages where the API is not used?

    I still think OS is right to force the non-commercial aspect. If the API and data is used to provide an attractive and interesting way to pull people into visiting the site then the potentially it is helping to generate revenue, irrespective of how that revenue is utilised. Hardcore promotion of a service is only useful if there is a revenue stream for it. As I understand it Googles business model is based on advertising revenue, indeed you could probably argue that Google is no longer a search company and is more an advertising agency. It uses free tools and services in order to promote the brand which ultimately results in advertising revenue. I’m sure Ed will correct me if I’m fundamentally wrong in this assumption. Ordnance Survey’s current funding model is based on licensing of data, hence the upgrade path that will be available.

    Until there is a fundamental change in the OS funding model then this situation will remain! Anyone looking to make money from the API (regardless of purpose) will need to look to a commercial license.

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