Google Maps vs Open Street Maps Comparison

  • Updated on: January 23, 2024

Overview Information about Famous Google Maps

Google Maps is a proud product of Google Inc. and is a major part of their services. The Google Maps service was publicly launched in February 2005 and from that time it has grown into a giant product with many user-end API services such as routing, direction, map tiles design customization, route traffic, many advanced layers, overlays, map customization options, and much more. The major boost of Google Maps in the online world was when people were able to start integrating their maps solution into their websites. Now it’s so common that we see almost every single website, either corporate or commercial, have a section of maps showing their location.

We have hundreds of solutions in almost every CMS or framework, such as WordPress, through which we can integrate Google Maps into our websites. Moreover, it can be integrated for free and ads-free, but Google states in its terms of service that it reserves the right to display Google ads in the future.

google maps

Drawbacks of Google Maps API Services

When we think from the developers’ point of view the first thing that comes to our mind is the source code of Google Maps, which is proprietary of Google Inc. and we can’t play around with it to adjust it according to our requirements. The libraries’ hacks will not work much longer as the whole package is loaded every time and Google keeps enhancing it with every release. On the other hand, we have Open Street Maps which is an open-source mapping solution that is getting popular every day because of its open database license. Furthermore, we can download the whole solution and edit it without any restrictions.

Overview of Open Street Maps

Open Street Maps (OSM) is an open-source project maintained by the OpenStreetMap community that provides free editable maps of the whole world. OSM’s motivation was to make a restriction-free mapping solution that can be used for commercial and non-commercial usage which any limitation. Moreover, the project was launched in August 2004 by Steve Coast as a non-profit organization. Moreover, the data of OSM is a perfect alternate solution for Google Maps that contains almost all the services that Google Maps offers with the advantage of customizability. In the next section, we will compare the services of both mapping solutions.

Open Street Maps

Comparison of both Mapping Solutions

Geocoding API, Google Maps vs. Open Street Maps

Google Maps Geocoding API is the service through which we can convert the address into coordinates by providing the address as a string to the API. In addition, the reverse works as well, this is known as reverse Geocoding. The accuracy of Geocoding API is very high and it can convert almost any address into its latitude/longitude coordinates. The Standard Usage API limit has a usage policy of 2,500 requests per day for free, more requests will be billed. For Open Street Maps we have Nominatim which is a free service and is hosted on many private servers. MapQuest and Mapbox also provide address lookup services as paid solutions.

Geocoding Service
GeoDirection API, Google Maps vs. Open Street Maps

Google Direction service is a pretty popular service that calculates the distance between two coordinates or addresses and draws an interactive route over the map that shows turn-by-turn direction with distance and time. In addition, It also provides several modes of transportation where a user can choose between transit, driving, walking, or cycling. The API can be used by anyone through either their server or client side with a usage limit of 2,500 free direction requests per day. Whereas Open Street Maps doesn’t have any direction API, there are some other 3rd Party solutions such as Mapbox, and MapQuest that can be used as a paid solution.

Direction Service
Place API Service, Google Maps vs. Open Street Maps

Google has a unique Place API typeahead widget that can be installed on any website or app very easily. Furthermore, Google provides a list of locations (Zipcode, County, City, State, Country) and keeps filtering as you type the address using its typeahead feature. In addition, this API service works with Google Maps API and has a usage limit. However, for small or medium scale websites the usage limit is pretty good. OSM lacks such widgets as free service, a third-party provider such as Mapbox does provide such service but that’s just a data service rather than a widget.

search location place api
Overlays, Google Maps vs. Open Street Maps

Google Maps does support overlay for images and basic shapes such as Polyline, Polygon, Circle, etc. In addition, Google Maps also provides a library for drawing managers which can easily be used for user web applications. In Open Street Maps, the same or more functionality can be achieved using a third-party library such as “Leaflet” which is free and can be extended for your requirements.

Overlay Maps
Data Layers: Google Maps vs. Open Street Maps

Google Maps supports many types of data layers which include KML Layer, data layers for earthquakes, heat maps, fusion tables, etc. It also provides data layers for traffic, transit, and bicycle layers. In OSM these layers are not part of the project. In addition, these custom layers can be fetched from Mapbox or Mapquest services.

Data Layer Google Maps
Street View Feature, Google Maps vs. Open Street Maps

Google has a pretty accurate street view feature that provides panoramic 360-degree views from designated roads throughout its coverage area. The view is the same as shown in https://maps.google.com. However, the coverage of this 360 view is for limited cities. Open Street Map or any other 3rd party service provider doesn’t have such a great service.

Street View
Few Comparison Stats based on Features
FeatureGoogle MapsOpen Street Maps
Web Browser SupportsGoogle Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Microsoft EdgeUsing Third-Party Services
Max Zoom Level2219
Map Types6: Map with traffic data (separate transit and bicycle view), Satellite with Traffic Data (3D LiDar for certain places not present in most places), Hybrid5: Standard Map, Transport Map, Cycle Map, Humanitarian
3D ModeYesNo
Direction ServiceGoogle Direction APIUsing Third-Party Services
Reverse Direction ServiceYesUsing Third Party Services
Bicycle DirectionsYesUsing Third Party Services (Limited areas)
Contact IntegrationYesNo
Live Traffic InformationYesUsing Third Party Services (Limited areas)
Turn-by-turn navigationYesUsing Third Party Services (Limited areas)
Comparison via APIs between Google Maps & Open Street Maps (OSM)
APIGoogle MapsOpenStreetMap (OSM)
Direction APIProvides a robust Directions API for routing and directions, including driving, walking, and transit directions. Offers real-time traffic information and options for alternative routes.Offers a Routing API with basic routing capabilities, including driving, walking, and cycling directions. It may not have real-time traffic data and the same level of detail as Google Maps.
Place APIProvides a Places API for searching and retrieving information about places, including businesses, landmarks, and points of interest. Includes details like ratings, reviews, and photos.OSM itself does not provide a dedicated Places API. However, third-party services and applications may offer place search and geocoding using OSM data.
JavaScript Maps APIOffers a JavaScript API for embedding interactive Google Maps on websites. Allows customization of maps and integration with other Google services like Places and Street View.Offers various JavaScript libraries and plugins for displaying maps using OSM data on websites. Developers have more flexibility in customization but may need to handle additional functionality themselves.
Geocoding APIProvides a Geocoding API for converting addresses into geographic coordinates (latitude and longitude) and vice versa. Offers limited free usage with usage fees for heavy use.Offers Nominatim, a free and open-source geocoding service that converts addresses to geographic coordinates and is often used with OSM data. Usage is generally free, but rate limiting may apply.
Traffic APIProvides access to real-time traffic data for use in applications and services. Offers traffic incident data and predictive traffic information.OSM does not have a dedicated Traffic API. Traffic information may be available through third-party sources and applications using OSM data.
Elevation APIOffers an Elevation API for obtaining elevation data for geographic locations or along paths. Useful for terrain analysis and elevation profiles.OSM does not have a dedicated Elevation API, but elevation data may be available from other sources and can be integrated into applications using OSM data.
Street View APIOffers a Street View API for embedding interactive street-level imagery on websites and applications. Provides panoramic images of streets.OSM does not have a dedicated Street View API, and street-level imagery may not be as readily available.

Common issues of using Open Street Maps

IssueDescription
Contributor-Driven UpdatesOSM relies on volunteer contributors to update map data. The frequency and accuracy of updates vary by location.
Asynchronous UpdatesChanges made by contributors don’t instantly reflect in map tiles. OSM follows an asynchronous updating process.
Variable Update DelayThe delay between data changes and updated map tiles can range from minutes to several days, depending on the OSM tile server’s update schedule.
Priority and CoverageHighly populated areas often receive more frequent updates, while remote regions may have less up-to-date data.
Lack of 3D Street ViewOSM does not offer a dedicated 3D Street View feature with panoramic street-level imagery as Google Maps does.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Google Maps excels in providing user-friendly features, making it a great choice for those seeking ease of use. However, for those looking for a higher degree of customization and control, the open-source solution, OpenStreetMap, stands out as the preferred option. OpenStreetMap offers a wealth of options for tailoring maps to specific needs and provides a platform where users can actively manage and contribute to map data, making it a powerful choice for those who require flexibility and community-driven mapping solutions. Ultimately, the choice between the two depends on your specific use case and the balance between convenience and customization you require.

Comments :
  • I appreciate much on that explanation above but I have some question, do I put both google map together with Open Street Map on my website, mean a single site

  • Good comparison! Very useful

    It would have helped if you could have elaborated on APIs from Mapbox and MapQuest – cost and features.
    Thanks,

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