The definition of Open in OGC, OSGeo and OSM

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Versión en español: La definición de Abierto en OGC, OSGeo y OSM

This page is the sandbox for a presentation to be given at FOSS4G 2011, the 78th OGC TC Meeting and SOTM 2011, all taking place in Denver Colorado in September 2011. Read the abstract submission.

The definition of Open in OGC, OSGeo and OSM

Presenter: Arnulf Benno Christl

Building: Cape Town International Convention Centre
Room: Makuya Room (Room 1.6)
Date: 2008-10-02 08:30 AM – 10:00 AM
Last modified: 2008-09-09


The presentation gives an introduction to the three communities in the spatial software realm and how they relate; The Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC), the Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo) and the OpenStreetMap project (OSM).


The Open Source GIS History sums up some milestones.


Reading OGC's history shows that it was initiated by the GRASS People who started off with a foundation, the OGF. Read the long version if you want to get into all the details.


Well, our History is legacy, but not much of it was documented from a retrospective point of view. There might be people interested in years to come. Scan the archives for all those nasty, soothing, destructive, constructive, ignorant, and informed mails following up the somewhat inauspicious start of the MapServer Foundation. It is all there. Just add some links.


OSM's history is the image of a map. Not a map actually but the Londonposter.

OSM has a one-liner as mission statement:

  • OpenStreetMap is a free editable map of the whole world. It is made by people like you.

And an abstract:

  • OpenStreetMap allows you to view, edit and use geographical data in a collaborative way from anywhere on Earth.


The term Open is somewhat ambiguous. Therefore it might make sense to look into which type of Openness is the one that applies to each of the three.

In a nutshell OGC is the place where many collaborate on creating standards, OSGeo is the place where many collaborate on implementing software and OpenStreetMap is the place where many collaborate on creating maps. The common ground is that all three are focused on spatially related software and data and all have a clear (though somewhat different) understanding of the term "Open".

Open in OGC

  • All (with the corresponding financial background [1]) can participate.
  • All standards can be used royalty free (without cost) by anybody.
  • All can comment on the standards during the public (open) discussion period.

[1] As of the FOSS4G 2008 conference a Memorandum of Understanding between OGC and OSGeo includes OGC individual member status for a selection of nominated OSGeo members.

Open in OSGeo

  • All can participate
  • All software of this organization must have licenses approved by the Open Source Initiative.
  • All processes in this organization are open to public scrutiny - the only exceptions being related to privacy.

Open in OpenStreetMap

  • All can participate
  • All can create maps
  • All can use and get the maps