neogeography Ordnance Survey Thoughts

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 replies on “OS OpenSpace at last !!”

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 I’ve overlaid a GeoRSS feed of map annotations (e.g. interesting views or path blockages) – part of the Freemap API (see 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.

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.

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.

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.


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!


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.


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.

Add a comment?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.