OpenStreetMap (OSM), the open source mapping project, has secured its first commercial partner by linking up with property search engine Nestoria.

The move will see Nestoria displaying OSM’s user generated maps alongside its property listings – a boost for the project as it seeks to gain popularity among third-party developers.

Founder Steve Coast told e-consultancy that OSM’s content had increased to a level where it could start to support commercial agreements.

It’s part publicity stunt and part cool hack, but it really shows where things are going,” he said. “If Nestoria is confident enough to do this, it shows the potential of our data.

OSM, started two years ago, employs a community of volunteers to produce maps by uploading data from their GPS devices, and to provide an unrestricted platform for applications and mash-ups. Coast hopes it will have the whole of the UK mapped by the middle of 2008.

The move will see Nestoria displaying OSM’s maps rather than Google’s when its users search for properties on the Isle of Wight.

It’s really a test, and the rendering isn’t perfect, but as we get more data and the rendering gets better, more and more people will be wanting to use it – not least because you can derive work from our maps and you can’t from Google’s,” said Coast.

Nestoria said the move was “an interesting chance to be part of an innovative proof of concept.

Volunteer mapping is in its infancy, but holds the promise of more up to date data and could be a great tool to cost effectively map parts of the developing world. Nevertheless, this is an experiment. We have no plans to switch away from the high quality maps and satellite photos provided by Google Maps.”

OSM’s data is available via Mapstraction’s API, and Coast plans to migrate the site to Rails, the open source web application framework, in the next few weeks.

He added: “We were talking to people about commercial deals some time ago, but none ever happened because of a simple lack of pretty maps to show off. But we’re now in a position to do that.