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Why you should donate to the OpenStreetMap FoundationJanuary 16, 2022
A lot has already been said about the Wikimedia Foundation's fairly blatant misuse of funds. Despite having annual revenue exceeding that of some small island nations' entire annual economic output, they continue to run ASPCA-esque banners, I'm sure some of which are viewed by users in those island nations. Three times as much money is spent on fundraising than webhosting, which represents a mere 3% (rounded up) of expenses. I realize that the bulk of the money they raise is spent on "programmatic expenses", but I'm very skeptical of the value those programs produce. In the past decade, I have seen three substantive changes across the Wikimedia Foundation's Projects:
- a newer, and in my opinion worse, default layout (I use Monobook)
- a fairly useless media viewer
- Wikidata (actually pretty cool!)
OpenStreetMap was founded in 2004 for the purpose of having a very wiki-like collaborative platform for sharing geographics data as an alternative to the copyright-laden alternatives at the time. It quickly grew in Europe, and the OpenStreetMap Foundation was founded two years later in order to better organize efforts. Today, OSM and projects based on its dataset is the only feasible alternative to the increasingly extractive Google Maps. Indeed, OSM actually has superior data much of the time.
You might be wondering how much it costs to maintain a project that underlies a fairly huge chunk of online maps. The answer can be found in the OSMF's most recent annual P&L report:
- £123,866 (approx. $169,411)
- £41,087: Dorothea Kazazi. As of 2019 she was paid approximately £22.30/hour to handle most (all?) of OSMF's administrative responsibilities.
- £33,562: Online hosting and internet service.
- £24,000 Depreciation. I believe this largely referring to value lost from aging computer hardware.
- £8,621: Insurance.
- £5,345: Contractors and consultants.
- £3,000: Accountant.
- £2,759: Office supplies, software licenses, etc.
- £2,275: Legal fees.
- £2,186: Bank fees.
- £1,336: Personal expenses (travel, food, etc.).
- £3: Grants. Not sure what this was, but amusing nonetheless! Perhaps they paid for a OSM contributor to buy a new mouse.
- (£308): Foreign currency depreciation (I assume because they held USD which appreciated against the GBP in 2021).
Now, you may be wondering, "but Josh, if OSM is doing fine with its current funding, why does it need more?" And there is a very good answer to that: the OSMF Operations Working Group. I'll save you the time and just tell you: the biggest drawback to using OSM in 2022 is that the openstreetmap.org tile server and related APIs used to actually access the map by most people isn't great. Although various vendors have graciously donated server space to help host it (and this has increased performance dramatically over the past year), relying on the continued benevolence of for-profit third-parties will obviously be a permanently tenuous partnership, not to mention that virtually all of them (including all three major providers) are located in western Europe.
In summary, the OpenStreetMap Foundation has a history of spending the money it receives quite well, and has detailed plans for worthy future expenditures. Information on how to donate can be found here. You can also become a member of the foundation (which includes voting rights under U.K. law) here for £15 (approx. $21) per year.