If you want to try a similar service to Google Maps for comparison’s sake (or any other reason, really), here are some of our top picks.
MapQuest was one of the first mapping websites on the Internet, having been launched back in 1996. It offers some of the same services as Google Maps, such as satellite imagery and traffic information. However, it is much more business-oriented, with features such as finding and booking travel accommodations, calculating fuel costs for trips, and even letting you compare gasoline prices at different fuel stations in your area (though this feature is only available in the United States).
2. Open StreetMap
Taking advantage of today’s inexpensive and widely-available global positioning technology, as well as the knowledge of local mapping enthusiasts from around the world, Open StreetMap fashions itself “the Wikipedia of maps”. Anyone is able to access Open StreetMap for free, and use content on it for pretty much anything they choose: advertising, information boards, printed maps… some people have even used images from Open StreetMap to design articles of clothing! Plus, like Wikipedia, almost anyone is allowed to help improve the content on Open StreetMap by adding more information or correcting mistakes… provided they have the technical knowledge to do so.
3. Yahoo Maps
As one of Google’s chief competitors, Yahoo has its own map service, too. It provides both Standard and Satellite Views, a function for getting directions, and weather and traffic information. It also has a feature where you can see pictures of an area that people have taken and posted to the photo sharing website, Flickr. Additionally, you can also sometimes look at the building plans of specific buildings, such as sports stadiums or convention halls. One thing to note is that its “search” function is somewhat inflexible; it is better at finding actual addresses than businesses or points of interest, and it sometimes only searches for locations that it can find within your current view of the map.
4. Bing Maps
Like Yahoo, Microsoft’s “Bing” service has put out its own map service to compete with Google Maps. In addition to a standard map view, it offers two different satellite / aerial photography views, plus the option to automatically switch between views based on the amount of detail that you need when you zoom the map in or out. It also contains live traffic information, as well as a function called “Streetside” which is very similar to the “Street View” function in Google Maps (though it’s available in far fewer places, and you need an addition to your web browser called Microsoft Silverlight in order to use it). It also sometimes offers interior directories of certain locations. Like Yahoo Maps, though, its “search” function is much better at finding actual addresses and general points of interest than local businesses.
Previously known as Ovi Maps and Nokia Maps, HERE is a branch company of Nokia that specializes in creating various kinds of maps and directories. Its flagship website, HERE.com, is very similar to Google Maps. It includes both Standard and Satellite Views of maps, traffic and weather data, a function for getting directions, information about various businesses and points of interest, and a “Collections” feature that allows you to bookmark your favourite locations. This last feature is useful if you want to explore an area before you go there (like, for instance, checking out a vacation destination’s hot spots), or want to try different routes to get from home to work to see which one is fastest.