$200,000 to $300,000 a year is, at the very least, the same as hiring a very good engineer for a year (and paying all the taxes and benefits and costs and still having a lot of money left). It was enough money to finally push us into doing our own maps.
(More detail. They didn’t actually spend less money — generating and serving all the map tiles is the expensive bit — but they got much more control and a much better result for the same money.)
I’ve long thought OpenStreetMap would have fit Wikimedia’s portfolio wonderfully — it’s a marvellous example of a project doing really well with the Wikipedia model, without being a linked entity. (And thus helping our mission without us doing the work.)
I remember a London Dorkbot presentation in 2004 on OSM — a friend who was working for Multimap pooh-poohed the idea that OSM could ever achieve a usable-quality map. I had been involved in Wikipedia for a few months at that time and considered this immediately obviously wrong, having seen what a few people just chucking in what they knew could achieve even at that stage.
OSM now has a foundation. Seeing as their server appears to be melting, they could probably do with a quid or two. They’re not yet officially a UK charity, but WMUK achieving charitable status does makes this more feasible.
There should be no chance to gouge for this sort of content. What other rent-seeking business models can the Wikipedia model destroy? Update: List of things that need to be free.