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On the wiki I see that anonymous editing was disabled sometime ago (around 2007-2008?), probably as a protection from vandalism. I assume this was done because at that time there was lack of sophisticated tools for change monitoring or there were too few people to fight vandalism. Not being able to contribute without user account (being identified as an IP address only) is a kind of user barrier that closes OSM to certain contributors and literally goes against the spirit of an open project. There surely are ways how to "contact" this or that IP address user in case of emergency. Did the situation change and are there any plans for allowing anonymous edits again?

asked 14 Sep '11, 18:27

Kozuch's gravatar image

accept rate: 8%

According to the discussion at that time the main reason is that you cannot contact the user who deleted/modified your work while having anonymous edits. Also, there might be a licensing issue. Of course you cannot identify registered users but it is still possible to keep track of all their edits under the same account.

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answered 14 Sep '11, 18:38

scai's gravatar image

scai ♦
accept rate: 23%

edited 14 Sep '11, 18:39

OSM is not mainly about data, but about the community of human beings that creates and maintains the data set. Anonymous contributors cannot really be part of the community and therefore they are of relatively little use to us. Allowing anonymous edits would not really "open" us to these contributors; it would allow them to add data but they could not be part of the community which is much more important.

Note that we do allow pseudonymous contributions, so if someone wants to contribute under an assumed identity or even under several, that's no problem.

At the time when we stopped allowing anonymous edits, another reason was that people in the community usually reacted very badly to problematic edits made by anonymous users - you never knew whether this was a newbie or the same guy whose edits you have reverted ten times already. When a named user ruins your work then you can write to him and often it will turn out that it was a mistake; but when an anonymous user ruins your work then people very quickly jump to conclusions.

And no, there are no ways to "contact" this or that IP address without going through the Internet provider, and that will usually require a warrant.

In short, the reasons for not allowing anonymous contributions are as valid as they were three years ago.

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answered 14 Sep '11, 18:50

Frederik%20Ramm's gravatar image

Frederik Ramm ♦
accept rate: 23%

While I understand and accept your arguments, you can always contact an IP address user by setting up a kind of "talk page" for the IP on (like Wikipedia does). Sure it is questionable if leaving a message on such page would help in case of vandalism, but the contact just IS possible, even if that is a proxy. I just basicaly say the rules for anonymous editing and also possible blocking of certain IPs from contributing just work elsewhere.

(15 Sep '11, 09:28) Kozuch

When I log in with my DSL account, I am more or less randomly assigned one of 16k different IP addresses. Even if I wanted to find a message that was left to me at one of the addresses I used last week, I couldn't. So no, it doesn't work on Wikipedia - it is just not as important to them to be able to talk to their contributors as it is for us.

(15 Sep '11, 09:47) Frederik Ramm ♦

Until pseudonyms are forbidden in OSM, you can use any nickname you like and you are an anonymous contributor. Important is that anyone can be contacted by others not mainly for licence change issues but more about you activities in crowd.

(15 Sep '11, 10:02) Pieren

Frederik statement "OSM is not mainly about data, but about the community" is simply wrong. OSM is mainly about free geographic data up-to-date and if we need a community for that, fine. But that's just a means, not a goal. This motto is just part of Frederik's philosophy against imports.

(15 Sep '11, 10:04) Pieren

It's not only vandalism. Actions like changing the licence would be hopeless if a large proportion of contributors were anonymous/unreachable. Even during normal operation, we often want to contact the author to discuss his modifications. And OSM also has a social aspect, even if not everybody is interested in it.

The need to sign up may be a barrier, but it is a small one compared to the technicalities of actual editing. Signing up with OSM is a simple action that most internet users have done on many websites before. If somebody is stoped by that... He would certainly have been stoped by the editing process later on anyway. A proof of that is the high proportion (is that 70% ?) of registered users who have never contributed any change.

That said, there are some third-party services which lower the barrier of entry and anonimize contributors. One example is mapdust, which requires no account and lets technical-averse people contribute. Another example is, which focuses on one type of map data, makes it easily and anonymously editable, and commit the changes in the main OSM DB via a "proxy OSM user".

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answered 14 Sep '11, 18:54

Vincent%20de%20Phily's gravatar image

Vincent de P... ♦
accept rate: 19%

edited 14 Sep '11, 18:57

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question asked: 14 Sep '11, 18:27

question was seen: 6,186 times

last updated: 15 Sep '11, 10:08

NOTICE: is no longer in use from 1st March 2024. Please use the OpenStreetMap Community Forum