As we know that Google Maps is a proud product of Google Inc and is a major part of their services. The service was publicly launched in February 2005 and from that time it has been enhancing and now a giant product with so many features, user end API services such as routing, direction, map tiles design customization, route traffic, many advanced layers, overlays, map customization options and so much more. The major boost of Google Maps in web world was when people were able to start integrating their maps solution in their websites, now it’s so common that we see almost every single website either corporate or commercial have a section of maps showing up their location in the view represented by some markers. We have hundreds of solutions in almost every CMS or framework such as WordPress through which we can integrate google maps into our websites, it can be integrated for free and ads free but google states in the terms that they reserve the rights to display google ads in future.
When we think about it in developers point of view the first thing which comes to our mind is the source code of Google Maps is the proprietary of Google Inc and we can’t play around with it to adjust it according to our requirements and usage. The libraries hacks will not work much longer as the whole package is loaded every time and Google keep enhancing it with every release. So all against it, we have Open Street Maps which is Open Source Mapping Solutions that start getting popular every day because of its Open Database License, we can download the whole solution and edit it without any restriction.
Open Street Maps (OSM) is an open source project maintained by the OpenStreetMap Community that provides free editable maps of the whole world. OSM motivation was to make a restriction free mapping solution that can be used for commercial and non-commercial usage which any limitation. The project was launched in August 2004 by Steve Coast as a non-profit organization, the data of OSM is a perfect alternate solution for google maps that contains almost all the service that google maps offer with the advantage of customizability. In the next section, we will compare the services of both mapping solutions.
Google maps Geocoding API is the service through which we can convert the address into coordinates by providing the address as String to the API and the reverse of it works as well which 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 solution.
Google GeoDirection Service is a pretty popular service that calculates the distance between the two coordinates or address and draws an interactive route over the map that shows render direction turn by turn with distance and time. 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 directions requests per day. Whereas Open Street Maps doesn’t have any direction API, there are some other 3rd Party solutions such as Mapbox, MapQuest that can be used as paid solution.
Google has a unique Place API typeahead widget that can be installed on any website or app with few easy steps, it provides a list of Locations (Zip code, County, City, State, Country) and keeps filtering as you type the address using its typeahead feature. This API service works with google maps API and has a usage limit but for small or medium scale websites the usage limit is pretty good. OSM lacks such widget 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.
Google Maps does support overlay for images and basic shapes such as Polyline, Polygon, Circle etc, they have also provided a library for drawing manager which can easily be used for user web application. In Open Street Maps, the same or more functionality can be achieved using third party library such as Leaflet which is free and can be extended for your requirements.
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, these custom layers can be fetched from Mapbox or Mapquest services.
Google has pretty accurate Street View feature that provides panoramic 360-degree views from designated roads throughout its coverage area, the view is same as it does show in https://maps.google.com, the coverage of this 360 view is for limited cities. Open Street Map or any 3rd party service provider doesn’t have such great service.
|Feature||Google Maps||Open Street Maps|
|Web Browser Supports||IE7+, Firefox 18.104.22.168+, Safari 3+, Mozilla 1.7+, Opera 8.02+, Google Chrome 1+||IE7+, Mozilla Firefox 3.5+, Google Chrome 4+, Safari 4+|
|Max Zoom Level||22||19|
|Map Types||6: Map with traffic data (separate transit and bicycle view), Satellite with Traffic Data (3D LiDar for certain places not present in most places), Hybrid||5: Standard Map, Transport Map, Cycle Map, Humanitarian|
|Direction Service||Google Direction API||Using Third Party Services|
|Reverse Direction Service||Yes||Using Third Party Services|
|Bicycle Directions||Yes||Using Third Party Services (Limited areas)|
|Live Traffic Information||Yes||Using Third Party Services (Limited areas)|
|Turn-by-turn navigation||Yes||Using Third Party Services (Limited areas)|
In the end, we will conclude this comparison by one point that Google Maps is good with its easy feature usage but if you are looking for more customization and control one should go with Open Source solution which is Open Street Maps, that provides lots of ability to manage things according to your requirements.