I'm still looking for alternatives to popular Google services, just to see if it would be feasible to not have all my data in one provider's hand. In this one, I'm going to take a look at map services.
Google maps is widely known. It's probably the richest map data-wise, with the added benefit of street view, a well-stocked satellite view, data from points of interest and businesses, and a good interface.
We're going to take a look at other services, with the requirements that they use something other than Google maps for data. I'm not expecting a Street view replacement in any of these alternatives.
Open Street Maps
OSM is like the wikipedia of maps, with anyone being able to contribute to it, trace roads, buildings, and add points of interests, and more. OSM is accessible from their website, www.openstreetmap.org, and has the basics, such as directions, and search. It lacks a satellite view, street view, and doesn't have any informations about businesses. It also doesn't have the most elegant tile set there is.
MapQuest uses the OSM database to build their maps. It's been around for a while, but it seems more focused on the US market.
Qwant Maps use OSM as well, but it's still an alpha-level product. It doesn't have a mobile application, and doesn't have directions yet. It does look nice, and has basic informations when clicking on any POI, with favorites support.
On smartphones, the choice is a bit more varied, and that's what matters. OSMAnd seems to be the best choice out there on Android, with downloadable maps for offline access, and a ton of different options including which points of interest you want to display, the look of the map, a dark theme, a car GPS mode, and many more.
It's also interesting to note that there is a project called Open Street Cam which aims to provide an alternative to Street View.
Here Maps was formerly a Nokia product. They provide a web interface, as well as a mobile app, called Here We Go. The web interface is pretty slow to load tiles, and returned a very limited set of Point of interests, in my tests. It does have a few informations on each of them, though, so that's a plus.
It has directions, which are actually pretty well done, letting you choose between car, bike, on foot, as well as ride sharing or even a taxi.
It also has a satellite view, and can even show some public transportation information. Here maps also have access to traffic information in certain cities.
The mobile app is alright, it is pretty clear right at startup about what kind of data it collects, and has most of what you'd expect, including directions, favorites, and traffic data. It also can change the view mode from normal to satellite, and even download offline maps, if you're preparing a trip abroad and want to make sure you'll get a functioning GPS service.
Here maps is a good proposition that could definitely replace Google Maps in my admitedly simple uses.
Bing Maps is Microsoft's map service. It's a smaller proposition, including only a web interface and no mobile application. Bing maps has points of interest with a lot of data supplied by TripAdvisor, and local data providers, such as Pages Jaunes in France. It has pretty complete directions, including the ability to avoid highways or ferries, and it has traffic data to help you navigate or use it as a GPS while driving.
Bing Maps also supports a satellite view, and what they call "streetside", which is a street view equivalent. It seems to work in major cities, for example, in France, Paris had a pretty good coverage, but this feature is not available as widely as Google's.
Bing Maps doesn't seem to have a mobile application though, which is a shame, since it's where most people will use it anyway.
All in all, Bing maps is probably the best proposition on the web, outside of Google Maps, but without a mobile application to use, I just could not see myself switching to it.
The first is Wikimapia, a collaborative effort to give free maps to anyone who might need them. It's distributed under the open source Creative Communs BY-SA license.
Yandex Maps is also a good proposition, but if you're trying to escape the internet giants, the Russian Google might not be the best choice.
Duck Duck Go uses Apple Maps, which looks good, but they don't provide a separate map service.
All in all, while Here Maps and Bing Maps are pretty good, I still feel they lack the polish and overall nice finish of Google Maps. Their tilesets look a bit dated and bland, and even though data-wise, they don't seem to lag behind Gmaps too much, presentation matters, and the user experience is not as polished. They both are perfectly usable though.
Qwant Maps might one day have a user experience closer to the one Google delivers, but as of now, it's just not ready. For now, I'll replace Google Maps with Here Maps, but I'm not 100% satisfied.
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