Web Mapping Service: OpenStreetMap vs Google Map

Comparison of Web Mapping Service
Comparison of Web Mapping Service

As a developer or cartographer, or you simply needs to find as location on map then you have to choose one of the main web mapping service: OpenStreetMap or Google Map. When it comes to maps, Google Maps are still the KING, but OpenStreetMap is making a name and gaining favor among many apps and services. Both of them have some similarities and differences as well, but which one is really the preferred alternative as both of them solve the same need of “WHERE”. The basic difference between these mapping services is “Open” Vs. “Closed” approach.


In terms of coverage, Google Map team is working hard to improve their international coverage. OpenStreetMap, on the other hand, has a very poor coverage in some countries. Google Map contains very detailed information about features, even a smallest feature is available to user.


The first thing which comes to our mind is Google Map is proprietary of Google Inc. but OpenStreetMap is fully owned by the user, both the data and software are the property of the contributors. It is start getting popular day by day because of its Open Database License. User can download and edit it without any restrictions.

Imagery Satellite Updating Frequency

Although Google spends a lot of time and resources to updates the imagery in Google Maps and Google Earth. Imagery updation of location is totally depends where you live. Much of the urban area gets regular updates of imagery.

While in OpenStreetMap web mapping service, they use imagery from third party providers as they don’t update satellite imagery by their own. In most parts, Bing and MapBox imagery available to them.

Data Layers

Google Maps support different kind of data layers which includes KML layer, Heat Maps and fusion tables and also layers for traffic. In OpenStreetMap these layers are not available but it can be used by other services.

Cost of use

Though Google map is free, but there are charges for using their services after the free usage limit crossed. These services are expensive and restrictive which made them inaccessible to common user. OpenStreetMap, on the other hand, has provided free editable map of world with no hidden cost and charges.

Open Vs. Closed Data System

The main difference between these two services i.e. Google Map and OpenStreetMap is that every edits or changes done in OpenStreetMap by the user is owned by user itself while in Google Maps edits are owned by Google Inc. OpenStreetMap data is visible to all user and is controlled by version system. Anyone and everyone can access the data. OpenStreetMap describes itself as an open data source, that means any person, user or company is able to use the map data contained in OpenStreetMap.

On the other hand, Google Maps is close system. Every edits or information is a property of Google Inc.

Read more : Free editable map – OpenStreetMap.

API for accessing data

Google Maps and OpenStreetMap both have their own API, which allows user to use maps and data on web or applications. Google Maps API allows to embedded Google Maps on to web or application both mobile devices as well as desktop application.

In 2011, Google decided to charge for access of Google Maps API. Once the standard usage limit are surpassed the user have to pay for the excess request. In the other hand, user can get access to OpenStreetMap data freely for their application.

Overlays – In both Web Mapping Service

Google Maps also support images for overlays and shapes such as Polyline, Polygon etc. while OpenStreetMap can achieved more functionality of overlays by using third party library like Leaflet which is also free for use as per user requirements.

Speed of updates

In OpenStreetMap, edits made by user are visible instantly.

Google Map lets you instantly view your edits, but it cautions that your edit will need to be reviewed before it is officially added. However, there is no telling how long it will take to get reviewed.

Use of their maps by Organizations

Now a day’s more and more organization has started using OpenStreetMap data for their application. The reason behind this move are:

  1. OpenStreetMap Data Flexibility: User can apply any styling as per their need.
  2. Free: OpenStreetMap data is and always will be available for free.

In conclusion, it is totally depends on the user specific needs as which web mapping service to use. Google Map services are incredibly fast as compare to OpenStreetMap and has better coverage in many areas. Google Map is not much flexible but with OpenStreetMap, a user can download the data even for the offline use. This means that user can use OpenStreetMap data free for lifetime. Ultimately, if you’re interested in cartography or maps making, OpenStreetMap web mapping service is more easily accessible and it’s easier to find other users in your locale who share the same interest.


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