3 Open Source Alternatives to Using the Google Maps API

The rise of data mining, mobile applications and social media, among many others, has dramatically changed the face of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and what they can accomplish. This has led to the creation of tools suited to various use cases. The most obvious place to begin when thinking about GIS is the web maps available through the Google Maps API.

However, in acknowledgement of GIS Day on November 19, Jason Baker wrote this article on opensource.com that describes three alternatives to the Google standard.


Leaflet’s small library makes it a great option for creating interactive JavaScript maps for mobile applications where load time is vital. However, the long list of available plugins provides additional functionality and the Library is supported by comprehensive Documentation, making it ideal for beginner and more experienced developers.

Modest Maps

The library offered by Modest Maps is even smaller than Leaflet’s, but the modular design makes it a great way to create simple maps or select only the components relevant to each specific project, streamlining the development process.


This option is far more comprehensive than the previous two, allowing the creation of interactive tile-based maps or maps that leverage SVG-based vectors. SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) allows CSS styling options for web documents to be applied to map design. Polymaps JavaScript library also expertly handles zooming for smooth performance.

It should be noted that neither Modest Maps nor Polymaps enjoy much active development, but both are still usable. The author suggests several other options that may be better suited depending on specific needs. The list of web mapping tools provided by the OpenGeo Foundation allows the mixing of mapping libraries, but careful attention must be paid to the scope and production-readiness of each tool.

Be sure to read the next Mapping article: How to Implement Basic Search with Google Maps API

Original Article

3 open source alternatives to Google Maps API