In the news among aviation enthusiasts, the ADS-B data aggregation and aircraft tracking site ADSB-Exchange has been sold by its founder to JETNET for a reported $20,000,000. This type of routine financial news is more at home in the business media than on Hackaday, but in this case there’s something a little different at play. ADS-B Exchange is a community driven site whose data comes from thousands of enthusiasts worldwide connecting their ADS-B receivers to its feed API. The sale to a commercial flight data company has not gone down well with this community who are unsurprisingly unimpressed that their free contributions to the website have been sold.
This certainly isn’t the first time a site built on community data has flipped into big business, and while it’s unclear whether JETNET will do a full CDDB and boot out anyone not paying to play, we can understand the users feeling that their work has been sold from under them. On the other hand, how many of us can truly claim their open source beliefs wouldn’t start to buckle once somebody slides a $20m check across the table?
It’s evidently too late for anyone aggrieved by their ADS-B data being sold, but perhaps there’s something else to think about here. We have an established way to recognize open source software in the many well-known software libre licences, but we don’t for crowd-sourced data. Perhaps it’s time for the open-source community to consider this problem and come up with something for future sites like ADS-B Exchange whatever field they may be in, a licence which clearly defines the open terms under which contributors provide the data and those under which site owners can use it. Otherwise we’ll be here again in a few years writing about another aggrieved community, and we think that doesn’t have to happen.
58 thoughts on “ADS-B Exchange Sells Up, Contributors Unhappy”
$20,000,000? As the data must be *at least* 50% of the value/worth of the thing, so the various data contributors get to split half of that amount? If not are they all shutting off that contribution pipe in 3… 2… 1…? Actually, it would probably be more useful to agree to turn off the data at the same time. Say, 23:59:59 Eastern (or GMT) Friday 27 January, 2023.
Nope, it’s a lower case m, that means it’s two cent.
That’s fully right, man!
$20 million is very cheap. Will certain flights now be hidden? Will contributors now be paid? Can we set up a new public website?
How many people are going to continue to feed their data into ADSB-Exchange knowing that not only was their historical data sold out from underneath them, but also their ongoing data is being monetized with zero compensation to the contributor. JETNET is either going to have to start paying up or they are going to see their newly acquired data source dry up.
Some executive probably thought that he was being smart and just scored a free source for ongoing live data at a bargain basement price. Someone has a surprise coming.
To a certain extent, FlightAware and Flightradar24 do the same thing.
Flight aware started with the FAA ASDI feed, and augmented that with ADS-B receivers spread around the world.
This is perhaps different with the community support starting the data feed.
And for ships with AIS exists the same type of ecosystem. Private users operate some (most?) receivers…
(At least that is what I understand from that stuff.)
Fair, but Flightaware does give out free Enterprise membership to their site to the contributor, so they at least acknowledge the data is worth ‘something’.
I think contributors don’t mind so much with Flightradar24, as premium access to the features of the site are provided if you’re feeding in. Such as with a simple Raspberry Pi and SDR dongle setup.
No one learned from CDDB.
> … ongoing data is being monetized with zero compensation to the contributor.
Some contributors receive some (non-zero) compensation. Personally, I receive a feed (via the Restful API) of the aggregated results so I can display only aircraft I care about. I’m OK with that (if the feed quality is maintained). Some contributors (in underserved locations) have received an ADSB receiver and antenna in exchange for their feeds.
But yeah, it’s pretty lousy. I feel especially bad for those who developed the software and installation scripts and then answer questions and fix issues in the ADSBexchange forum. (@wiedehopf I salute you.) Perhaps they’ve been compensated or perhaps not.
That will likely change as Dan has removed James from ADSBexchange hours after the buyout was announced. James held it together and really helped me out.
This is very disappointing, I’ll be turning off my feeds today.
The key functionality (receiving and decoding) is based on the excellent (and open) dump1090, and while ADSB Exchange maintained a convenient pi image, there’s nothing there which can’t be recreated with open tools.
It’s different from CDDB as a) the ongoing data is more relevant than the historic data (even though historic is useful) b) the ongoing data is collected from a relatively small group of quite informed users, who have at least some technical ability.
I suspect that unless those people are paid for their ongoing data it will be going somewhere else soon…
That was my thought as well. Whereas entering CDDB data once creates a lasting and useful record of that particular album, ADS-B data loses most of its usefulness within minutes of its capture.
I agree wholeheartedly with this statement: “Perhaps it’s time for the open-source community to consider this problem and come up with something for future sites like ADS-B Exchange whatever field they may be in, a license which clearly defines the open terms under which contributors provide the data and those under which site owners can use it.”
Raw data cannot be copyrighted, but perhaps there is a way to limit its use to only what the data’s contributor agrees.
I wonder if this upcoming deal was contributor to the owner being such a… lets say “unfriendly person”. Half of his comments across reddit were some form of insult to the OP.
That was not the owner, that’s actually the guy leading the call for everyone to leave.
I think you are confusing Dan who owned ADSBx with James who was well known for having a bad demeanor and attacking people.
Ah, you just reminded me that time when I applied for API token but first I got a list of snarky comments about performance of my feeder. I can only see western half of the sky, no way for 360 coverage. I copied requirements for API users and ask toxic James if I fail on any on those points. Only after that I got my token. In the end I never used it – the project I had in mind was not fun anymore.
I turned off feeding to adsbexchange yesterday.
My mistake. It would appear james is the one I was thinking of. Can’t imagine why someone would hold on to an employee so set on driving people away AND let him represent them in a public forum.
That person was an employee. His personality was so unashamedly toxic and proud of it that there are many schadenfreude posts about this sale.
Probably bough by JetNet so that certain flights will never be tracked publicly. I’m sure that they can monetise far more profit by filtering for a fee.
Yeah, like the private jets that fly to/from Climate Change conferences.
You cannot copyright raw data. Historical data of this is type is almost useless (for now). So the community should simply stop publishing their data to ADS-B Exchange. Build a new site and move on.
Not just build a new site, but collaboratively own it (i.e. a cooperative) so that it can’t be privately stolen.
I believe somebody will do that relatively quickly.
How hard would it be to setup a new website, if those existing contributors would be on board? Sounds actually sounds fairly trivial, and I’d expect those contributors to band together, considering they have already made a significant investment (in both time and money), and now have a common enemy.
I think thats exactly what will happen just like CDDB and FreeDB
An alternative already exists and many people have switched over. http://opensky-network.org/
I tried OpenSky for a short time then it stopped and this popped up:
Access Restriction: Request limit reached – retry in 23 hours. (Limit: anonymous users 8min, registered users 80min per day)
Yeah, I’ll pass on OpenSky…
Hmm yeah. Opensky does have weird restrictions. Reddit claims that the replacement for ADSB-exchange is globe.adsb.fi and the feed server is feed.adsb.fi.
I don’t understand the question asked by the writer who wants to know how people feel about their data being sold. This data has value that diminishes over time. If people don’t like the new owners, they can stop contributing their data. Commercial users can buy their data from satellite owners who pull their own data from the public broadcasts.
Oh man, I just finished a job that uses ADS-B Exchange data to track certain aircraft and I haven’t been paid yet!!! I sure hope my client doesn’t find out about this…
Looks like a new temp (maybe more?) site is setup at globe.adsb.fi/tar1090
you can feed it with a small change:
/etc/default $ cat /etc/default/adsbexchange | grep feed.adsb
Oh and edit /usr/local/bin/adsbexchange-feed.sh as well
I’m not opposed to feeding both – am currently feeding FlightAware & ADSB Exchange. Adding adsb.fi is cool. But how?
So what exactly did they buy for the 20 million? If current contributors all or even most of switch and send thier data to a new open web data aggregator wont that make the 20 million a really bad waste of cash? and if the site was truly open source couldnt some contributors to the source code “modify” or corupt the current build and really put the screws to the buyers??? Just asking!
>This type of routine financial news is more at home in the business media than on Hackaday,
Siemens bought Supplyframe which bought Hackaday. Remember the series of upwards purchases and just misses starting with weblogsinc and AOL?
This type of routine financial news is exactly the thing that hackaday has a lot of experience with. A community being bought and sold. Luckily it’s mostly worked out for hackaday.
If only there was a mechanism whereby ownership could be shared cooperatively so it can’t just get bought out without members’ permissions… oh yes, a cooperative – a perfect match for Open Source! Boycott the existing servers, bill the current owners for any data they’re using; form a cooperative and buy new servers.
And here’s a new acronym to go with it: Cooperatively Owned Open Source: COOS! Coo(s) – I’ll have some of that please, so tasty :-) !
I suspect there’s some non-trivial costs to running the site. Did the previous business model work to cover them, or was the whole thing bankrolled by the owner? I think this is where many such projects flounder.
Opportunity – Make a new site and the people who do this for a hobby will come. MY Portapack HackRF ONE picked up 100s of transponders flying over my house last night. S0, clearly Buffet bought it on behalf of his buddies.
Why would Jimmy’s buddies in Margaritaville need ADSB?
Don’t worry… MotionInfo is developing an open ADSB platform. With over 650 locations in the U.S. we can track Elon Musk and others. Point your ADSB feed to us and we’ll provide the interface and tracking functions… We also have an AIS vessel tracking network.
Our company developed the first large scale AIS coverage in the United States and currently maintains one of the largest ADSB airspace & surface tracking systems in the US.
So wait… The guy that created and operated a free service… that guy got paid for his work. And now you are mad?
Don’t forget that all the people that contributed data also presumably USED the service for FREE as well. It’s not like he is now sending everyone that previously used the service a bill for past activity.
If you post anything on the internet, it’s ultimately out of your control. Especially if you are posting to a “free service” be that gmail, or facebook, or some ADSB data viewer. If you don’t want people having your data, don’t upload your data.
That’s very naïve take on the subject. There are privacy laws and I don’t see how Jetnet is addressing that. You also wrong about assumption that ALL people contributing also USE the service.
Vote with your feet.
Make a new site. Redirect the API data.
I use FlightRadar24(gold) and ADSB together commonly. FlightRadar24 is good for the commercial and some civilian and their UI is simple, but I absolutely love that ADSB shows far more registry information on civilian and private aircraft. So does this sale mean eventually things are going to change the platform?
No plans to change anything according to the posting. Sounds like they will continue to allow free public access, but will add a paid product that adds their own data on top. Seems fair to me. I will continue feeding unless that changes.
Feeders – feel free to switch to feeding another site. I have switched to adsb.fi
@The Area 51 Rider said: “Feeders – feel free to switch to feeding another site. I have switched to adsb.fi”
What’s the point? Have you looked closely at how adsb.fi actually works? The data on adsb.fi comes directly from adsbexchange.com.
Not quite correct Drone, the data is actually fed to the site by people around the world who have setup the required kit. The data is generated by the aircraft and transmitted by the aircraft, any one with suitable equipment can receive the data.
Without the feeder network, the sites provide much reduced information and value to the people who wish to use them to track aircraft (or anything else for that matter). As to the data itself, sending it to someone else in exchange for better access or because you want to contribute means that you have surrendered control of the data.
Obviously Jetnet see a commercial opportunity, few companies spend a reported $20M as a gesture of good will. As has been already stated, they are likely to leave the site with free public access – it may well be a case of they see the value in the data.
But being a bit more cynical, it may well be that they see the value in filtering the data to obfuscate things – lets suggest High Net Worth Individuals. This would have the same effect as the FAA’s LADD and PCI initiatives, all the info is on the FAA site with a LADD (Limit Aircraft Data Displayed) request form here https://www.faa.gov/pilots/ladd/request/. The PCI request (from memory) is a bit more involved, but allows the aircraft to change it’s call sign as well.
@Gull04: NONSENSE. I use a browser plug-in (uMatrix) that allows me to see every site I am connected to when pointed to a specific server. When my browser is connected to https://globe.adsb.fi there are actually TWO servers AUTOMATICALLY connected to my browser at the same time: adsb.fi and adsbexchange.com. The adsb.fi connects TO and FROM adsbexchange.com so everything I see is EXACTLY the same as if I was connected directly to adsbexchange.com itself. So it seems adsb.fi is doing nothing to add value, it’s acting like a transparent proxy. I do not understand why adsb.fi does this, but they are doing it. adsbexchange.com doesn’t care if adsb.fi is doing this, why would they? It’s just like a regular user accessing their site through a third party that charges nothing and alters nothing in terms of the content. When I upload data to either site, both work. So since I am getting the user interface from adbsexchange.com to begin with, I’ll just upload to adsbexchange.com from the start and never bother with adsb.fi in the first place. adsb.fi adds zero value.
Sorry my mistake, I thought that as pointing at one server or the other shows totally different results that they didn’t share any data other than the data sent in common. On my browsers, as an example at the moment there are 11k flights in progress for adsbexchange.com and only 4.8k for adsb.fi – must be something I missed.
My system obviously isn’t setup right as when I condense the map to a world view on both there seem to be lots of gaps in the coverage on adsb.fi as well – I’ll check my settings – thanks for the heads up @Drone.
No. They don’t share results but the software repo was orig setup for adsbexchange and it may be referencing something there still. Drone doesn’t know what he is talking about.
And here was me saying that, without actually saying that – I suspected as the Software is in a GitHub repo it would probably be an old tag or URI reference that was the issue @Coldfusion0012 but thought that a prompt for @Drone to investigate would maybe have saved face for him.
“It’s evidently too late for anyone aggrieved by their ADS-B data being sold, but perhaps there’s something else to think about here. We have an established way to recognize open source software in the many well-known software libre licences, but we don’t for crowd-sourced data.”
Unsure if this statement about no crowd-sourced data licenses is true.
A quick search suggests there are many, but I certainly didn’t know about them before this article made me go looking.
The data even archived is public domain, you just need a copy of it. Just like a phone book a collection of public facts isn’t copyrightable.
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