Published Date: 20 December 2023
Maps have become an indispensable feature for websites, web apps and geospatial applications. They enable greater user engagement and provide a way to convey layers of information and data that users can easily interact with.
They have many use cases, including:
- Providing context
- Helping visitors find information, locate businesses and discover relevant points of interest
- Displaying distinct levels of visual information.
When it comes to incorporating maps into your software development projects, two leading platforms stand out: OpenStreetMap and Google Maps.
This article delves into the pros and cons of each platform and highlights the key factors that can help guide your choice.
What is OpenStreetMap?
OpenStreetMap is a collaborative, open-data mapping platform that provides freely accessible and editable maps for locations worldwide.
It offers endless customisation options and diverse applications, from simple web embeds to complex geographic information systems.
The detailed maps are continuously updated by a dedicated community of contributors, including individuals and major corporations. This open approach means that OpenStreetMap can be updated rapidly to reflect changes in the physical environment, such as new roads, buildings or other features.
Key features of OpenStreetMap
- Accurate maps: OpenStreetMap provide high-quality maps with extensive global coverage that are accurate for most typical use cases. High-precision applications may require more specialised location tools.
- Free and open usage: One of the most significant advantages of OpenStreetMap is that it’s completely free – even for commercial use. It's managed by a non-profit foundation and the community-driven nature of the project ensures up-to-date and detailed mapping information.
- Flexibility and customisation: OpenStreetMap allows for greater customisation and control over map data, appearance, and user experience. This means you can tailor maps to your specific needs by incorporating custom styles, navigation tools, interactive features and additional data layers.
- Global Coverage: OpenStreetMap covers areas of the world where Google Maps may not yet be available, making it a valuable resource for global projects.
What is Google Maps?
Google Maps is a widely used web mapping service developed by Google. It provides interactive maps, satellite imagery, street views and route planning for users around the world.
The user-friendly interface makes it easy for individuals to explore locations, find directions and discover businesses and points of interest.
The service is known for its extensive database, rich features, and seamless integration with other Google services. While it requires an internet connection for real-time navigation, Google Maps is one of the most popular tools for users seeking accurate and detailed mapping information.
Key features of Google Maps
- User familiarity: Google Maps enjoys widespread user familiarity, making it easy for website visitors to interact with maps and find information quickly. It also integrates seamlessly with other Google services like search and reviews.
- Subscription costs: Google Maps requires a subscription for business use. The pricing change introduced in July 2018 requires billing information and businesses will be charged once they reach the maximum free user limit. This can make budgeting a challenge if you’re unsure of usage numbers.
- Customisation options: While not as flexible as OpenStreetMap, Google Maps does offer some customisation options, such as changing colours, density of streets, points of interests shown, etc – as seen in our Indie York Directory and Map.
- Privacy concerns: Google Maps collects and stores user location and search history data, which may raise privacy concerns for some users.
Things to consider when choosing a map service
When deciding between OpenStreetMap and Google Maps for your software development projects, consider the following factors:
- Commercial platform: If you value a professional platform with recognised mapping expertise and a wide range of features and integrated services, Google Maps may be your preference.
- Customisation: If you require more control over map data and visual identity, OpenStreetMap is the ideal choice.
- User interface: Google’s user-friendly interface offers a seamless experience for users who are already familiar with the tool.
- Financial cost: As a free tool, OpenStreetMap is the better choice for businesses with a limited or non-existent budget.
- Offline use: OpenStreetMap is the best option for offline use, while Google Maps requires a live internet connection.
How I‑Finity can help
Ultimately, the choice between OpenStreetMap and Google Maps depends on your specific project requirements.
I‑Finity is committed to working closely with you to understand your mapping needs and guide you towards the platform that best suits your software development goals.
Both platforms provide comprehensive APIs that enable the integration of mapping services such as mapping, geocoding, routing and more for mapping services to be available within websites and applications.
Whether you opt for the flexibility of OpenStreetMap or the familiarity of Google Maps, the right choice will enhance your website or web app’s user experience and engagement.