23 Google Maps Alternatives

Google Maps is still the top choice for adding maps to the web. It's powerful, customizable and for most sites, free. However, Google Maps pricing did encourage several large sites to make the move to other options, most recently foursquare. If you're also looking to move from Google, our API directory has several JavaScript-based options to consider.

The Big Players

Bing MapsMicrosoft is heavily pushing its Bing Maps API. GPS company Garmin switched to Bing for the companion website to its tracking device in 2010. After a year of user revolt, Garmin now offers users a choice of maps.

Bing does not have customizable maps or StreetView, but it does have Birds Eye View, an angled aerial photo that gives a unique view of a neighborhood.

MapQuestWeb geography pioneer MapQuest has a number of APIs, including two that could be considered replacements for Google Maps. The flagship MapQuest API and its limitless cousin the MapQuest Open API, which is based on OpenStreetMap.

Nokia Ovi MapsIt used to be the next one we'd mention here is Yahoo. Now that Yahoo Maps is dead, the company suggests migrating to the Nokia Ovi Maps API.

The Old Timers

deCartaDeCarta never quite gets the respect it deserves for its deCarta Maps API, which has been around since at least 2005. The company dared to charge for its service long before Google, with commercial pricing clearly available on its site. But it also lets you brand the map as you see fit and promises never to put ads on the map, even in the non-commercial version (which is free for twice as many views as Google).

CloudMadeCloudMade offered customizable maps long before Google styled its Maps. CloudMade was started by OpenStreetMap founders and has always been built off the map anyone can edit.

The Abstractions

MapstractionI like the Mapstraction API so much, I wrote a mapping book about it. With Mapstraction, you don't actually choose a mapping provider, at least not permanently. You can start with Google Maps and always have the option to switch to another provider by changing one line of code.

OpenLayersOften compared to Mapstraction, the OpenLayers API takes a different approach to abstraction. Its JavaScript has all the features you'd expect from a mapping API, plus it lets you load any tiles you want. But watch out for those terms of service violations if you're going to try to get tiles from one of the big players.

Cloudmade LeafletCloudMade created a new, OpenLayers-like Library from the ground up. You can use any tiles you wish, with CloudMade's available by default. The Leaflet API has become popular because it is a small, flexible library.

You can also use any of these options with your own tiles, which is what foursquare did recently using the MapBox API.

Google Will Remain Popular

Of the mapping mashups added to our directory the last 60 days, 75% still use Google Maps, which remains by far the most popular API.

But for those who want to venture out and see if the grass is greener, there are the above options. If you still haven't seen what you want, there are even more, including region-specific mapping APIs, in our complete list of JavaScript mapping APIs.

Photo via Tyler Bell

Be sure to read the next Mapping article: 61 Geolocation APIs: Panoramio, Google Gears and Yahoo