Google Maps vs OpenStreetMap: Which is the Best Web Mapping Service?

Un mic ghid pentru a va ajuta in alegerea celui mai bun serviciu de webmapping: Google Maps vs OSM. Si eu ma intreb mereu care e mai bun? Pe care sa il aleg?

As a cartographer, you actually have an option as far as maps are concerned, but the solution isn’t so clear like was in the past. Google’s maps remain the king; however, OpenStreetMap is becoming a force to reckon with, getting more popular among different applications as well as services.
While one can find a comparison between the both community mapping programs, which one is really the preferred alternative to commit one’s scarce resources and precious time into if one desires to see his crazy mapping skills get projected on the internet?


1. Coverage

In terms of coverage, Google map has a higher coverage in many countries. As a matter of fact, it is the leading map in many countries which include the United States, Germany, and Japan and over 220 countries. OpenStreetMap, on the other hand, has a very poor coverage in most countries, there are instances where many important places such as hospitals, government buildings, parks etc. will be missing from the map and the individual will have to edit to include the missing places. Google Map is very detailed in its coverage, down to the smallest streets and shops. In website categories, Google map is also ahead of Open Street Map in many categories including arts, shopping travel, business and more than 200 other categories.

2. Ownership

While Google Map is copyrighted and owned by different organizations, OpenStreetMap is fully owned by you; the user, both the data and software are the property of the contributors. The organization is known as Open StreetMap Foundation only exists in order to develop, promote, support and protect the project.

3. Imagery satellite updating frequency:

It’s over and over again asked how often Google updates the imagery in Google Maps and Google Earth. The answer depends on where you live and can be anywhere from once a week to never. For much of the world, there are certain hotspots that get fairly regular updates and other places that have no high-resolution imagery whatsoever.
When it comes to OpenStreetMap, they don’t update satellite imagery, ever (for lack of satellites). They use imagery from third-party providers that have granted permission to them; Yandex and Google are not among them. In most parts of the world, the best imagery available to them is either Bing or the MapBox satellite imagery, and OpenStreetMap has no influence on when they update.

4. Cost of use

Though Google map is free, there are certain charges incurred when one makes use of Google mapping services. There is the cost of privacy in addition to not being able to control whatever is displayed on the map. OpenStreetMap, on the other hand, is totally free with no hidden cost and charges.

5. Closed System versus Open System

The most notable distinction between Google Map and OpenStreetMap is in the manner it handles the information you input into it, which can have an influence on your choice about which one to work with. OpenStreetMap styles itself as an open data source, which means that anyone or organization can use the map information present in OpenStreetMap.
On the other hand, Google Map is a close system. Every bit of information you put in ends up being a property of Google and you are reminded of this fact on the constantly enthralling Terms and conditions page.

6. Swiftness of updates

google maps maker
For somebody only just starting out mapping, you’ll wish to find the improvements you make without delay, right? Google Map allows you to immediately see your edits, however, it cautions that your change will have to be analyzed before it’s formally included. Strangely enough, even though it’s your first alteration to a map, you are able to evaluate other people’s edit. As a matter of fact, reviewing others’ edits is a way to get your alteration evaluated faster. But then, you have no idea of how long this evaluation.

7. Localized location of names

Google map tends to be very intelligent by showing the local names of places when available. For instance, A French name written in English makes little or no sense. This functionality in Google Maps helps to make the map very easy to read. In OpenStreetMap, this functionality is poorly implemented.

8. Design/Color scheme

In terms of design /color scheme, Google map has a more attractive interface; this is not unconnected to the fact that Google has the resources to hire good mappers/ designers for the job. With Google Map, you can easily distinguish the different parts of the map immediately. The reason for this attractive interface is because Google makes use of different colors to denote different objects. OpenStreetMap, on the other hand, uses very few colors to denote different features; hence so many things are not quite easily distinguishable.

9. API for accessing data

Both Google Maps and OpenStreetMap have an API allowing using maps and their data on web pages or applications.
The Google Maps API permits the embedding of Google Maps onto web pages of outside developers, using a simple JavaScript interface. It is designed to work on both mobile devices as well as traditional desktop browser applications. The API includes language localization for over 50 languages, region localization and geocoding, and has mechanisms for enterprise developers who want to utilize the Google Maps API within an intranet.
In October 2011, Google decided to start charging fees for access to the Google Maps API once daily usage limits are surpassed. Every time an Internet user visits a site that uses a Google map, a request is sent to the Google Maps API, and the number of requests made by a given site thus equals its number of visits. The more popular a site or application, the more its risks having to pay in order to continue to display a Google map.

In the other side, to get access to OpenStreetMap data freely from your application, you can use the Overpass API (formerly known as OSM Server Side Scripting); it is a read-only API that serves up custom selected parts of the OSM map data. It acts as a database over the web: the client sends a query to the API and gets back the data set that corresponds to the query.
Unlike the main API, which is optimized for editing, Overpass API is optimized for data consumers that need a few elements within a glimpse or up to roughly 10 million elements in some minutes, both selected by search criteria like e.g. location, type of objects, tag properties, proximity, or combinations of them.

10. Use of their maps by organizations

This website uses open data on the city of Montpellier to geolocate green spaces on an OSM map
This website uses open data in the city of Montpellier to geolocate green spaces on an OSM map

In fact, more and more major organizations are choosing OSM for their maps. In February 2012, Foursquare switched to the OpenStreetMap powered Mapbox platform. In March 2013, Wikipedia started using OSM as well. Craigslist uses it for apartment searches and even Apple has used OSM data in its maps… Other popular platforms using OSM powered maps are Github, Pinterest, Roadtrippers and Strava, to name a few.
There are two main reasons for that. First of all, the flexibility. OSM is ready for any styling you need to apply for your project. The second reason is that OpenStreetMap is and always will be available for free to users, developers and companies.

In conclusion, settling on the appropriate map to use will be finally determined by your specific needs. Google Map is known to be incredibly fast which is essential for mobile performance, tile loading etc. and has significantly better coverage in many areas while OpenStreet Map is known to have better performance in urban centers. Google Map is not that flexible and is only used for online purposes. But with Open StreetMap, the user can download all or some of the map for offline use, either in GIS format. This means that you can safely use OpenStreetMap information to find your way around and not have to reveal your location to anybody.