Thunderforest and Open Source

Thunderforest is built on OpenStreetMap. We contribute to the open source community in a number of ways.

Company founder Andy Allan is a long-time volunteer for OpenStreetMap. He first started mapping in 2006, when the project was just getting started.

osm2pgsql sponsorship

Thunderforest sponsors osm2pgsql. This is the software used to load the raw OpenStreetMap data into our databases, and process the continuous updates brought in every few hours.

We think it’s important that these key open source projects are well maintained, and that the developers have support for doing the routine maintenance that all software requires.

As well as having sponsored key features (like the “flex backend”), we also provide monthly sponsorship leaving the developers to decide what they want to work on.

OpenStreetMap codebase – improving the experience for new volunteer developers

One of the biggest challenge facing the software community in OpenStreetMap is bringing new people into the development process. The software is relatively mature, so it can be big and complex to understand.

However, there are so many more features that could be implemented and new directions to be explored.

Thunderforest founder Andy Allan focuses on improving the developer experience, particularly for new developers. He makes sure that everything is easy to understand, behaves the way that you might expect, and so on, so that a new developer can figure out how to get started as quickly as possible.

More recently, Andy has been working on the open source codebase that powers the website and API for OpenStreetMap.

It’s a large and reasonably complicated codebase that has passed through many different hands. So one of his main efforts here has been to refactor the software, to make it easier for other volunteers to get started and to provide a stronger foundation for future work.

Andy is also focused on making it work better in different languages, especially those that are written from right to left. It’s an interesting technical challenge, but it’s also very useful for all of the volunteer mappers to have the whole website look right in their own languages.

Andy & OpenStreetMap – the start of the story

When Andy first got involved with OpenStreetMap, there were only a few roads in London mapped, so he and his flatmate started out by walking up and down the streets of south west London with a GPS and a camera, adding them one by one.

Andy volunteered after hearing about it online. He already knew about open source software, and creative commons music and art. OpenStreetMap seemed like a natural fit.

Andy had been interested in maps since he was a kid, and he wanted an excuse to buy a GPS. It was the perfect intersection of interests.

After a year of mapping, Andy started getting interested in creating his own cartography, because he wanted to show some of the bike parking and bike routes that they had mapped.

OpenCycleMap was born in 2007, and by 2008 Andy was working on OpenStreetMap projects as a full-time job. After setting up his own company in 2010, Thunderforest was launched in 2011.