Ordnance Survey OpenSpace: DOA

“UK’s Ordnance Survey has released (a closed alpha of) OpenSpace, an API for their maps! I’ve been wrong to criticize them for their paleogeographic ways when all along they were stealthily working to embrace us neos.”

That was my first impression when I read Ed Parsons’s announcement of the news. But Ed’s post also mentioned something about tile limits, and from the Guardian I learn that this API project is something “urged” onto the OS by the UK government’s Cabinet Office.

Time to dig a bit. And that’s when we go from the sublime to the ridiculous. From their FAQ:

1.4 How much data am I allowed to use?
OS OpenSpace allows your API key to access up to 30 000 tiles of data and up to 1 000 place name look-ups per day for free.

5.4 My site gets a lot of traffic, what can I do?
Congratulations :! Contact us to talk about the different possibilities we may be able to offer you. If you are interested in commercialising your application, take a look at point 6.2 of the FAQs.

So let’s say I add an embedded OpenSpace map to a blog post on Ogle Earth that shows 9 tiles. That should last me about the first 12 hours of every day. Sorry late-rising Californians, my quota is up! Should I add two such maps within 15 posts of each other, so that the front page of the blog displays a total of 18 squares, then Europe is out of luck too. Translation from OSese: Feel free to have a website that uses our maps, as long as it is obscure and unpopular.

Oh wait, there are licensing options available to those with sites that get “a lot of traffic”. But they are in dense legalese and for “businesses” and “value-added products” and “branded published products” with “royalty models” and “product schedules”… Dudes. I’m a blogger. WTF? Are we really all supposed to call you to find the price?

6.3 Can I have adverts like Google Ads on my website? (Is it only on the same page as the map or the whole site?)
No, please see the OS OpenSpace Developer Agreement (there can be no form of financial gain).

6.4 Can I build an application for Facebook/MySpace/any other commercial website?
The application you build cannot result in any financial gain to you (the developer of the application), the user or any other party; please see the OS OpenSpace Developer Agreement.

Well, which is it? “Only on the same page as the map or on the whole site?” Does anyone know? Did someone copy-editing the FAQ write that and accidentally leave it in? Not that it matters; whatever the answer will be, this is so stupid and tone-deaf to the realities of Web 2.0 that I’m practically sputtering into my Malay gin & tonic. Pages and websites are artificial constructs in Web 2.0, as we’ve now all moved on to services aggregated from wherever they may originate. Do I really have to set up an ad-free www.NotOgleEarth.com and link to maps served from there as popups or iframes every time I want to use OpenSpace? Is OS not aware that advertising such as Google ads is ubiquitous on the blogs and hobby sites that the OpenSpace API is ostensibly for? For the overwhelming majority of bloggers — certainly those for whom 30,000 tiles per day is plenty — the ads at most help defray hosting costs, or else they are injected by web hosters to pay for free hosting services. Does the Ordnance Survey really think all these people are going to remove their Google ads from an entire site forever (or switch provider) if they once used OpenSpace to show their favorite route to work in a blog post now buried somewhere deep in the archives?

Mapperz, in his wonderfully efficient telegraphese style, has some further observations:

Note: Any Content you create using the Open Space API – Will not be yours, as it is ‘dervived’ from Ordance Survey Products. […]

No 1:25,000 (Explorer range) or 1:10,000 Rasters

OpenSpace will not be used by anyone. With the current restrictions it is dead on arrival. Perhaps that was the intention?

[Wait, the Developer Agreement has more:

2.6 The Website is provided for Use by private individuals strictly for the Purpose. You may not use the Website, the Ordnance Survey API or the Ordnance Survey Data or any part thereof in connection with any other purpose.

“Purpose” means any purpose or activity which (i) is not undertaken for Financial Gain; or (ii) does not result in Financial Gain to you or any User or any third party used by or in connection with you or any User; or (iii) is not connected to any company, partnership, sole trader or other business entity or professional body, any educational institution, or any central or local government or other public sector body; excluding for the express avoidance of doubt use in relation to any website that carries paid for advertising, and/or use by the afore-mentioned entities in their day to day activities, on their intranet or in connection with any display, promotion or advertising;

So does this mean that other people can link to the free popup OpenSpace maps on NotOgleEarth.com, but not me from OgleEarth.com? Or can you link to them only from sites that themselves do not have ads? What about sites that link to those? Is this a nefarious plot to rid the world of Google Ads by someone somewhere on the web linking to a single OpenSpace map?:-)]

One thought on “Ordnance Survey OpenSpace: DOA”

  1. You cannot make money on the site using the OpenSpaces API. Not even for covering the costs of servers/hosting fees and bandwidth.

    There are other API’s which allow this

    MultiMap Open API (just bought by Microsoft)

    does allow advertising (well does not say you can not)and using the Ordnance Survey

    1:50,000 (Landranger Series) Mapping.


    (no ads but could.)


    Currently the OpenSpaces API only shows 1:50,000 data, though this can change as Terms of Use from both Ordnance Survey/Multimap.

    A good roundup post and a recommend read.



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