Google’s hegemony is by definition everywhere, so it is not a surprise to find the firm in the digital mapping area. Google Maps is one of the leader on the market.
Above all, there is Open Street Map (OSM).
Started in 2004, this project is the only existing collaborative world map, their slogan : “The Free Wiki World Map”. You’ll understand that it is nothing less than the Wikipedia of maps.
The most important is obviously the community. To give you an idea, in April 2012, OSM had 600,000 registered users for approximately 20,000 regular contributors (source Wikipedia).
Like Wikipedia, anyone can edit the map (Point Of Interest POI, road directions, bus stops, traffic lights…). On a portion of map, you can view all the changesets made by users (source version control). Editing roads is a little more complex, it can be achieved by using technologies based on GPS localization. With the advent of smartphones, it is now easier to contribute to roads tracing.
What I immediately like with OSM is obviously the fact that it is open-source and supported actively by a community. I am especially amazed by the quality of the “final” result. OMS map is very accurate and very readable thanks to its color scheme. I let you judge for yourself.
The map is available with several layers following main themes (a zoom displays the main axes of the theme) :
An export function in different formats (including PNG) is a small revolution. Until now, I was used to make prints-screens to export plans under Google Maps. If you like, you can even download the latest version of the map (file is 21 GB).
Unfortunately, OSM features are rather limited… But, as I said, there is an active community. You will certainly find the application that suits your needs and relies on OSM data.
- Thus Open MapQuest adds many features, including directions.
- You take public transportation ? So go take a ride on this amazing map.
- Looking for a city plan, streets index included ? Look no further !
- You are lucky enough to own a yacht, in this case you might be interested in this map.
- You prefer to ride your bike and want to discover new pathways, then it is here’s where it’s at.
- Want to know all the details of your ski-runs for your next winter holiday ?
- Want to find good places for hitchhiking ?
- Want to find wheelchair accessible places ?
- Etc., etc., I can go on for long and perhaps sell you this product (hell no ! It’s free).
If you’re curious, go on the Wiki, a page lists all the OSM based applications, and the list goes on !
At least this map exists, unfortunately there’s not been a lot of buzz around the project (or I’m a little spaced out). Anyway, feel free to promote it in your circles, a promotional site also exists. Personally, I think I will use it regularly, without abandoning Google Maps and its magic Street View experience !