Google Maps vs OpenStreetMap

Some of the cartographers on the OpenStreetMap project (which includes the chair of the Society of Cartographers in the UK) got together a few weekends ago for a cartography discussion day to try and clean up the rendering of free geodata from the project. The results of that day are now starting to appear on the maps, with much of the extraneous detail being stripped until you zoom further in, revealing more on each zoom level so as not to clutter the smaller scale maps.

With the changing of the maps I wanted to see how the Isle of Man was looking. I have to say, it's looking even better than the previous big update to mapping.

When I first learned about OpenStreetMap at the Open Geodata Forum I wasn't entirely convinced it would take off, though I was intrigued by the concept. Almost two years down the line and my opinions have definitely changed on that, as have the opinions of many others, including people in the geographic information industry.

To see why my opinions have changed, just compare the open street map of the Isle of Man to the Google Maps version which shows nothing except its name and an outline of the Island (with the Calf of Man joined at the bottom as if a bridge had been built to the islet).

With open geodata anyone can just go in and add new information or alter existing information if there are errors in it (like the link between the Calf and the mainland, for example) but you can't do that on Google Maps. Admittedly the Manx map is still somewhat lacking in certain areas, but it's a work in progress and it's getting there, slowly.

1 ©2007 Google, TeleAtlas, used under fair dealing clause

2 ©2007 individual contributors, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license