The Ordnance Survey has opened up its map source code for online developers to use when creating Web 2.0 applications such as mashups.
The OpenSpace project was announced last year, and developers will be able to use it from January 2008.
People and organisations will register for a free feed of Ordnance Survey (OS) data with which they can experiment — initially for non-commercial purposes only.
An OS spokesman told silicon.com that as the UK's national mapping agency, the organisation has a responsibility to encourage use of its data and the fostering of innovation within the industry.
The data will consist of up to 30,000 map tiles per day, along with 1,000 place name look-ups. Over this data, developers will be able to add lines, markers and information from elsewhere on the web.
The data will be available in different mapping scales and cover the whole of Great Britain and promises to be more detailed than that included in other map mashups such as Google Maps.
Vanessa Lawrence, the OS's director general and chief executive, said of the project that technology is creating new benefits from geographic information.
If people want to take applications into a commercial sphere, the OS will look at licensing the data and will work with developers directly or through suitable partner organisations.
The spokesman said: "Our longer-term plan is if lots of people do take a liking to OpenSpace and there's lots of innovative products out there and people are calling for us to make a commercial of it, then that is something that we will look at as time goes by."
The OS has more than 500 commercial partners, including sat-nav mapping company Teleatlas and Multimap, recently acquired by Microsoft.
Steve Coast, founder of open source mapping group OpenStreetMap said the OS's OpenSpace project represents "one of the most significant releases of a mapping data API", adding it will be interesting to see how the data is used.