Lets face it Google Maps are everywhere and unlike web search this is a challenging area for an alternative to break into. But there is an alternative and it is pretty good – the OpenStreetMap (OSM). Though it still lacks some features it has one-up on Google Maps – the key word is Open, meaning not one person/group controls the maps, in fact anybody can change and add to the maps as they are publicly editable just like a Wikipedia page. Don’t let that sound like these maps are just basic sketches though, they are incredibly accurate and detailed.
All the data on the Open Street Map is completely free for anybody who wants to use it, and it remains the control of nobody. This means the maps can be integrated into another website or program free. Yes Google Maps are free to use, but the data is still owned by them and it must be used according to their terms, policies and overall permission. More from the horses mouth here.
Though the OSM license allows me to bring you this embedded demonstration of the maps below, it isn’t clear though from their documentation what sort of user data logging they do at their end. (This comes to you from their servers – iframes must be switched on)
Because of the free nature of the OSM maps, there aren’t any satellite images and I shouldn’t imagine there will be until an organisation releases the images free of copyright and free of charge. Which is unlikely because satellites and rockets and cameras and things are a bit dear.
Though Streetview isn’t a feature, users can tag their images and the OSM hope the public will get behind the spirit of ‘openness’ to fill the maps with an image layer.
One obvious missing feature that exists in Google Maps is directions, though whether this is in the pipeline at all depends on whether a volunteer wants to donate the time and coding to do this.
This OpenStreetMap Review has encouraged me to do a series of Google alternatives. I will write more alternatives to Google services over the coming weeks so if that is the kind of thing that interests you, please Subscribe by email, get Fed or follow me on Twitter for new post notifications.