Survey Results

As promised we wanted you to give an overview about results of our survey.

Answers are not perfectly representative as we published it on Twitter only.
Most questions allowed multiple choices. Thus percentages sum up to over 100.


OSM Buildings version

Numbers say Modern 3D Version is used by about 80% of projects.
Our impression is rather an even split between Classic and Modern versions.
We also got feedback that not everyone is clear about what version they’re using.

Application scenarios

Previous answers already indicate your application scenarios.
Data visualization leads with 70% followed by GIS with 60%, then Architecture with pleasing 17%.


Our hints were perhaps too much inspiration. So keywords are: textured objects, indoor, terrain. Also some VR and some more building details.

Project environment

There is a large base of 60% of personal projects. Followed by businesses with close to 40%. Another surprise.
Then NGO/Education/Research at 30%.


Sponsored features leading by almost 70% which is a lot more than expected.
Followed by donations at 60% and some acceptance for subscriptions.
Also seems like GIS people slightly prefer donations.

Project partners

Strong 50% opting for MapboxGL.
Others sharing the rest evenly and sadly we’ve had some fake votes in that section.


We’ve got overall very positive feedback and compliments.
This means a lot and it is driving the project!

We’re asked for some improvements on the Classic version here.


Many things were to be expected and that could mean no significant changes ahead.
But our competitors are currently ramping up and investing a huge amount of money.
Our resource is lifetime and we have to spend it carefully.


Adding heavy features for like terrain and textured objects would require large rewrites of the Modern viewer.
And then still it excludes potentially interested developers as code is very efficient but customized.

We could go with Cesium but these features are already implemented.
GIS features are not as present and data visualization on urban level is just bad.

We could go with Tangram but besides being very cool this leads nowhere.

We could go with ViziCities. This is an interesting option because of some overlap in data visualization ideas. Also ThreeJS is becoming more attractive to us. So far communication remains unanswered.

We could go with MapboxGL. Majority of you thinks this is a good idea.
We’re very split. It’s base map is awesome and recent integration of buildings seems cool.
But they’re currently at stage of extruded footprints. From what we see the engine needs similar rewrites just for more detailed building data and textures. And with aiming for car navigation, this is not their focus.
However, simple but effective mass building data visualization is very possible and it has all the GIS features we love.
Outcome: we’re hesitating to give the results away for others to make money.

With OSM GO there is another very new and promising project. It’s obviously under very heavy development but at an awesome progress. We’re in close contact and share many ideas.
It’s using ThreeJS as well which is undeniably good base to involve community.

For now we’ll go on with OSM Buildings Modern viewer. At same time we’ll assist OSM GO and perhaps join forces. MapboxGL remains on the list as well as our Classic viewer which we’d love to give some improvements.


Mapbox Vector Tiles are a hot topic today. Few of you know we’re using similar schemas since years.
There is now an option to join OSM2VectorTiles.
We’re not happy with flexibility of data structures and update frequencies.
There is a lot of data features we have in mind that will hardly fit current tool chains.
Our prospect viewers can already handle Vector Tiles or will be able to soon.
Thus our decision will be postponed.
However, we’re going to make data services more present on our website.
Commercial options will be removed except enterprise level.
From there it’s your choice: free user who are hopefully donating or a single commercial licensing option.


Donation options will return and be prominent. We’re curious how much willingness to donate there really is.
We’ll call for sponsoring bigger features. That worked particulary well for single feature/single sponsor: We’ll be trying a more crowdsourcing like approach now.

Last words

Let us know your option!

Please donate (PayPal).




F* stands for Flawed.

On the way to make OSM Buildings a bit more secure and the data backend more convenient to use, https had to come into play.
Still a small project I've put big hope into letsencrypt in order to get free certificates.

Domain setup

osmbuildings.org - primary website
   www.osmbuildings.org - forwards the primary website
   cdn.osmbuildings.org - serves static scripts
  data.osmbuildings.org - entry point all the data
a.data.osmbuildings.org - alternative sub-sub domain for parallel loading
b.data.osmbuildings.org - alternative sub-sub domain for parallel loading
c.data.osmbuildings.org - alternative sub-sub domain for parallel loading
d.data.osmbuildings.org - alternative sub-sub domain for parallel loading

It's most important to cover the "data" subtree as this is the core service for users.

When letsencrypt went live, it was just disappointing that certificates will expire after 90 days. It's very inconvenient not to miss a quarterly update point.
Also they offer no Wildcard certificates. It means refreshing every single domain.

Complicating fact is that the "data" subtree is not served by any common web server. Means manual updating.

I think, that's all concession to big commercial CA's in order to get their cross signature.

Ok, we've outgrown the SSL for personal use.

Next stop StartSSL.

I've ordered a Wildcard certificate and the process felt endless.
No information about what documents they really need, extensive loops after every single upload + reply.
Then no clear information about what would be missing or when the process will be completed.

I stopped the nightmare after a week.

Still not able to spend thousands on SSL, I was willing to increase the budget.

Wildcard certificates

My choice was RapidSSL cert, re-sold by my server provider.
And suddenly things went fast and seemingly well.

But then I learned what Wildcard really means:

coverage for *.osmbuildings.org

osmbuildings.org - YES
   www.osmbuildings.org - YES
   cdn.osmbuildings.org - YES
  data.osmbuildings.org - YES
a.data.osmbuildings.org - NO!
b.data.osmbuildings.org - NO!
c.data.osmbuildings.org - NO!
d.data.osmbuildings.org - NO!

The most important addresses would not be covered!
I had to learn this is as intended in RFC6125.
I was told to buy another Wildcard cert for the sub-sub domains. Doubling the price made clear who profits from such regulation.

Then I just tried to change the certificate to cover all the "data" subtree.
Not possible. I had to cancel all and reorder.

If *.osmbuildings.org covers osmbuildings.org and its sub domains,
then a Wildcard like *.data.osmbuildings.org should cover data.osmbuildings.org and it's sub domains.

expected coverage by *.data.osmbuildings.org

osmbuildings.org - NO
   www.osmbuildings.org - NO
   cdn.osmbuildings.org - NO
  data.osmbuildings.org - YES
a.data.osmbuildings.org - YES
b.data.osmbuildings.org - YES
c.data.osmbuildings.org - YES
d.data.osmbuildings.org - YES

Again, that's not the case. Now pure data.osmbuildings.org remains uncovered.
I call rip off.


As RapidSSl certificate combination didn'T help me either, I went back to StartSSL and spent more time in reading carefully what's possible with their services.

Seemingly all requirements could be covered so I gave them another try. Luckily all my uploaded documents were still present.

It required some pushing but at the end, I bought one validation and can now use Wildcards and multiple domains together.
Just a single certificate to be installed once.

A good note on RapidSSL: cancelling my orders went fast and without any questions.

Shady paths

On my way to finding providers, I've hit the original vendors that are just excessively expensive. Then websites like rapidsslonline.com (compare with rapidssl.com) that look like a copy, but are much cheaper.
But no word about what they are. Resellers? A branch? Just fraud?

Also found some promising German providers. Usually doesn't matter but it helps a lot if you speak same language as your support peer.
But for all either: their certificate was issued to some far asian company, was invalid or non existent.

All this is not creating trust. Especially in such sensitive business.

That's why I think the system is seriously flawed.


3D Print at WhereCamp 2015

At WhereCamp 2015 we presented a little special about 3d printing.
Of course it was all about map data.

It's not an all new idea, but we made it distinctive by allowing people to select OpenStreetMap data right in OSM Buildings, go to a few subsequent steps and take their printed result home.

To keep this as fast as possible, selectable areas were limited to 200x200 meters and print size was limited to 30x30 mm.

Whole setup turned out to work pretty well.
During the day majority of attendees showed up and asked many questions.
At this point, many thanks to the nice people from http://3d-button.com for operating the printer and handling the data.

From all the feedback and despite some prints gone wrong, this was a great success.

Technical Background

Key to make the whole presentation possible was the API from 3D-button.com.
With that, I was able to programmatically upload STL files.

After I got it working, I had to create a conversion process from OSM data to triangles and then to STL.
It's worth noting that this process will be available as a public OSM-to-3DPrint API soon.

Also I created an easy to use selection mechanism for OSM Buildings (Menu -> 3D Print)

Finally all got wired and a lot of test prints and fine tuning has been done.

The result you see here is the very last print at WhereCamp. After gaining more and more experience in selecting suitable data, proper print material, data handling etc. we found this an optimum.

Find the slides of my talk about the project here.


Berlins neue Skyline

I'm happy about all the feedback about the visualization project Berlins neue Skyline.
It's time to give you more insight into the work.

Morgenpost Interactive Team

The team with Julius Tröger, Moritz Klack, Christopher Möller approached me the with initial ideas early 2015. They did 3d visualizations in the past but wanted to go for something more advanced. Read more about their work here and here.

I had René Schulz supporting me in 3D modelling and data conversion aspects.

Data conversion

As a surprise an official city model of entire Berlin was published in summer 2015. Along with a lesser known HD model of the city center - the one we used. We were also very lucky for administration's special support and their last minute update for 2015.

The key for all our work was to get the data converted the right way. We read the CAD files into Sketchup and exported all relevant information to OBJ format as OSM Buildings has support for it.

This transformation brought 770 MB down to 400 MB. Not bad but not acceptable to present this to users. Several attempts to slice, compress and reformat the solution came in flavor of GeoJSON.

Now every building part, roof, dome, column, facade detail became an individual extruded feature rather that a triangle collection. Besides few visual impact, size reduction was now at jaw dropping 25 MB.

The converter is now avaliable on Github.

OSM Buildings viewer

Next months Morgenpost team flooded us with ideas. While almost driving us crazy, I'm very grateful as this pushed OSM Buildings massively forward and gave us a lot of insight into customer requirements.

Few special features are:

  • a transform method to place HTML labels at seemingly correct 3d position
  • methods to selectively show and hide objects
  • animated growing of buildings on load
  • handling of very large OBJ and GeoJSON files

Special thanks to Robert Buchholz (osmstreetview, flatmat.ch) as he fixed excessive tile loading by introducing a proper bounding area calculation.

For your ideas, data, support get in touch!


AddisMap is using OSM Buildings

AddisMap.com is an Ethiopia-based city guide for Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa.
Since the relaunch of the website in December 2014, it also shows 3D buildings, based on OSMBuildings. 

The team of B.A.M.E. PLC is continuously working on improving the OpenStreetMap data for the country, also including 3D building data.  


Talk: Berlin Large Scale 3D Mapping for Robots Meetup

Few hours ago I gave a short introduction to OSM Buildings at Berlin Large Scale 3D Mapping for Robot Meetup.

We've presented our fields of interest and identified a few topics for next meetups.
Most likely we will deal with data processing, legal aspects and capturing via drones outdoors. There's good chance to collaborate with MaptimeBER in a flight session at former Berlin Tempelhof Airport.

I was impressed by high skill and experience level of all participants and I'm happy everyone was interested in OSM Buildings. It would be a very interesting application to offload and visualize automatically captured 3D data.

See you next time.

Demo Video



German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel reporting about MakeCity Festival Berlin

MakeCity Festival takes place from June 11th to 28th in Berlin.
There are 85 talks and workshops about urban planning and architecture.

One project mentioned there is BuergerBautStadt.de which supports citiciens paticipation in planning and change processes.

We are very happy the project has chosen OSM Buildings for visualizing its geometry.