Cloudmade's Depth and Breadth

Consciously or unconsciously, Millennials have innate Jeffersonian appetites for trust-based transparency, respecting media and content producers more if offered peer-based authoring input into the design, creation, and on-going maintenance of content products and/or services. The guys at Cloudmade (the latest commercial offshoot of Nick Black and Steve Coast's ongoing OpenStreetMap project) understand this well.

I recently caught up with Cloudmade's newly appointed CEO Marc Prioleau to gather more detail. Now under the guidance of Progression Partners, Cloudmade's commercial interests center on street map parity along with depth & breadth. It's a focus Marc describes as "something very different from the likes of NAVTEQ and TeleAtlas, where our tools and content are tightly coupled to empower community-participants to create street network basemap parity along with richer, more relevant depth for the community creating it and using it."  That's a loaded statement so let me try n' break it down for ya. 

  1. Streetmap Parity: Commercial street mapping data providers (now owned by Nokia and TomTom) will no doubt remain opportunistic and continue prospecting for more data (more streets and otherwise) they know will not only help differentiate their own applications & services, but which will also introduce value for their numerous licensees - and there are thousands out there folks. But these producers are deciding what content is best to collect for usage, leaving coverage gaps in areas and others areas ignored altogether. Cloudmade wants to fill in the coverage gaps, introduce more detail, and level the playing field for street map data commodities while reducing (or even eliminating) licensing costs in the process.  Marc and I didn't discuss monetization, but you can bet if there's a community-of-participants collecting data at no cost, business models will eventually emerge to support ad-based, donation-based, and if the community develops real, valued trust in a transparent Cloudmade - eventually subscription based.   
  2. Breadth & Depth: Here again, we have corporate collectors deciding what should be gathered for points-of-interest, without the interest of the community advising them what they should collect. Cloudmade hopes its users will decide what to collect and subsequently what to use and they aim to simplify the effort with new software tools supporting a free-form organic database for points-of-interest. They aren't alone in this thinking. Public Earth, now in private beta, has similar aspirations.     

That's the commercial aspiration.  Here are the facts: 

  • There are 100K active, altruistic OSM participant-contributors today collecting data.  Most are GIS or geospatial industry insiders. Marc and team hope to see that number at 1M eventually, made up mostly of users, which the location-rich mobile era now supports.
  • The UK and Germany are at 85% parity for streemaps, and the US has TIGER as baseline plus contributions made by weekend OSM parties. 
  • Also, UK and Germany breadth & depth (which Marc confessed is difficult to measure given the subjective nature of the classifications) are at 70%
  • US POI classifications are wide open, which they hope to 'fill' by 2010. 

What needs to be done...

Marc said the biggest challenge is getting the community involved.  Monetization will come eventually. I'll casually ignore the 'reach then rich' colloquialism here because I sense there's a more mature, thoughtful approach at work beyond passe ad-based BS. Today, Cloudmade is about evolving from where they are with geo-enthusiasts towards an end-user driven company.  The baseline set of data is there to start mapping breadth & depth, so come people, lets start using this stuff and get it built - for us!  It could lead to something interesting.