Google Maps is the single greatest and most popular digital maps source in the world. Millions of people daily visit the site or use the mobile app to find out where that cool new deli is, or where to find tickets for the next week’s concert. With features that were added over the years, Google Maps became a powerful tool that offers all map-related stuff you possibly need. Not only it's excellent when it comes to finding your way in a new city you visited for the weekend, or discovering places around you, the mobile app also provides pretty good turn-by-turn navigation, which is good as or even better than most third party offers.
But, as these things usually go, Google Maps isn’t the only choice when it comes to digital maps. There are around half a dozen other solutions that offer their own map data along with different, but useful interfaces that can give you as much info as Google Maps can. In this article, we will cover some of the best Google Maps alternatives you can use inside your web browser and will mention one that, while popular on its own, cannot be accessed via web interface. Let us begin.
Bing Maps is a digital solution from Microsoft and while anything with Bing slapped on it may sound like a silly alternative that won’t provide anything near the original service, Bing Maps is a very useful and easy to use Google Maps alternative.
The service launched in 2005 and changed many names before Microsoft decided to call it Bing Maps in 2009. Bing Maps provide detailed aerial imagery for most countries of the world, and the service offers a great number of additional features.
Some of the highlights include a Bird’s Eye imagery that is available for many countries and most large cities and is based on imagery captured by a low-flying aircraft and that offers an isometric view of the area instead of classic top-down satellite imagery, and Streetside feature (the same feature as Google StreetView) that offers limited coverage of metro areas in the United States, Canada and Europe.
Other features include venue maps (showing info of more than 5300 venues across the world), aerial view, road view, 3D maps for selected cities, driving and walking directions, traffic information as well as business and location search.
User interface is easy to use and well designed. Navigation is easy and with additional options available on right mouse click. Overall, Bing Maps is a great digital maps service that, while not offering as many details as Google Maps, can serve as your go-to place when want to search maps, get directions, and do some free roaming across the world map. It doesn’t offer street view in many countries, and it offers 3D view in just a couple of cities outside the US. Also, if you want to look for businesses, restaurants and other POIs it is better to use Google Maps.
Here Maps (now known as Here WeGo) is another Google Maps alternative that offers excellent coverage of every country in the world. The company provides map and street data for many different businesses that include BMW, Oracle, Alpine, Facebook, and even Microsoft for their Bing Maps service. It was formerly owned by Nokia, but the company is known owned by three car manufacturers – Audi, BMW, and Daimler.
The web digital map service focuses on detailed street view, accurate data, navigation, and satellite view of the map. Street view coverage was available for selected countries but is no longer accessible. The company plans to return the feature in the future, along with adding many more (more than 50) new countries to its Street View list, covering more than 60 countries in total.
Here WeGo offers a short list of features. You can use their maps for turn-by-turn navigation, for locations sharing, real-time traffic data, navigation on foot, in a car, and on a bicycle, and that’s about it. No POI coverage, no 3D maps, no Bird’s Eye view. Here WeGo is a solid alternative for navigation, for searching addresses, and for buzzing around in free view, but for all other tasks, Google Maps provide a much better service.
OpenStreetMapproject started as one man’s struggle to provide the world with free, open-sourced maps that can be edited by anyone. Steve Coast first mapped the IK, and soon after the OpenStreetMap foundation was established many volunteers started to map the whole world. Today, OSM covers pretty much the whole globe with surprisingly accurate digital maps. The community is responsible for keeping the data accurate, and contributors from many countries are making OSM better by the day.
The website offers digital maps for the whole world and is easy to navigate. Much like Here WeGo, OSM focuses on getting directions and using maps for navigation. Since maps are provided by governments, contributors, certain companies, and other groups, and since data is constantly updated, accuracy is even better than on Google Maps.
OSM even provides map data for many third-party navigation apps, and if you are located in a small country not covered in detail by Google Maps, or Bing Maps, you can use OSM for accurate directions and route planning. Since anyone can contribute map data, OSM maps are filled with POIs including venues, businesses, coffee places, restaurants, and more, even for smaller cities. OSM community is huge and very active so you can rest assured that map data is updated on a regular basis.
Sadly, OSM website doesn’t offer satellite view, and there’s any kind of Street View feature to be found, as well as additional features such are Bird’s eye, additional business info, or 3D cities, but maps are easy to navigate, and OSM can be considered as an excellent choice for navigation, route planning, and directions. For everything else, Google Maps is a far better choice.
Yandex Maps is a digital map solution developed by Yandex, a company that can be considered as a sort of a Russian Google. The company has the largest search engine in Russian; it owns an email service, a music streaming platform, its own browser and more. And Yandex Maps is the company’s answer to Google Maps.
The service features minimal-style UI and is easy to navigate. Features include the map and satellite view, but it’s worth noting that Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Here WeGo offer a better quality of satellite imagery. Yandex Maps also offers POI info, navigation feature, traffic condition info, custom routes, directions, and more. It is worth noting that most features work only in Russia and a couple more countries (Ukraine, Belarus, Turkey, Kazakhstan, and Armenia).
Selected cities in supported countries even have Street view feature, and it works rather well. It is detailed, it provides the same functionality as Google and Microsoft solutions, and you can even search for images and panoramas to check out (only in supported countries though).
Yandex Maps is a great tool for navigation and directions. The additional features are available only in a handful of countries, and if you live in one of them Yandex Maps is a good a service as Google Maps. For the rest of the world though, Google Maps or Bing Maps offer far better coverage.
Wikimapia is the most interesting Google Maps alternative we found. Instead of providing the usual map coverage, with traffic info, street view, and similar features, Wikimapia is an interactive map with the goal of marking and describing every geographical object in the world. If you visit the site you’ll find the usual map and satellite views but the main feature of Wikimapia is its interactive map, which features different districts, monuments, streets, businesses and other POIs, and they all can be clicked on.
Once you click on an item, a side window will open and, if the selected object has its Wikipedia page, it will be shown along with additional info (coordinates, category of the item, a few images, and nearby cities). The project is privately owned but everyone can contribute, and the digital map is at the moment filled with interactive items.
Wikimapia is perfect for all of us who like to wander around the world on digital maps. Once you find an interesting object just click on it and you will see its Wiki page. While not being suitable for navigation, POIs search, directions, and similar features offered by other services, Wikimapia provides an excellent source of info for free roamers and those who want to learn more about the world’s geography, architecture, cities, and more.
The last digital map service presented today is Apple Maps. It is the only service that cannot be accessed via web browser. The only way to use Apple Maps is to own iOS or OS X device since the service is offered exclusively as an app for Apple devices. While its first few years were quite unsuccessful because of inaccuracy and other bugs, Apple Maps offer excellent map accuracy at the moment. Maps can be viewed as a classic map layer or satellite imagery layer.
List of features includes navigation and POI search (with points of interest provided by more than 20 companies and services), traffic data, 3D maps (for selected cities), Flyover feature (that offers a digital flyover over selected cities and landmarks), City Tours, public transport maps and data, and detailed traffic information along with indoor maps (mainly for airports) that aren’t available in Google Maps.
If you own Apple product and live in one of the countries that are fully covered by Apple Maps, the service is a great option for any kind of usage scenario. Navigation, searching for businesses and venues, 3D maps, and more are all available on Apple Maps and all features work flawlessly. The only major drawback of Apple Maps is the lack of any kind of street view feature, which can be quite helpful in many different situations. Because of this, Google Maps is a better choice than Apple Maps, even in countries fully covered by Apple’s solution.