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Google Maps, Bing Maps, & Yahoo Maps: Cartographic Design Differences (41latitude.com)
95 points by j053003 1947 days ago | 30 comments



Don't forget OpenStreetMap http://www.openstreetmap.org/ a Free wiki map of the world. It has a very unique style that I think is very nice. One of their statements is "We make beautiful maps"

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A marketing problem with OpenStreetMap is that people used to Google maps where you get some .png tiles and that's it assume that OpenStreetMap is the same kind of thing.

Note that the OSM say "We make beautiful maps", that's maps plural, not "a beautiful map".

The project is primarily about the underlying data, not any particular end product. They have vector and bitmap outputs, 2D and 3D, digital and printed, up-to-date and historical maps, cycle, public transport and walking maps etc.

And many are both more beautiful and more useful than the alternatives, as well as being free. But not all of them.

Their featured image section of the Wiki gives a better overview, though again many of these images are intended to highlight the quality of the data or new technology:

http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Featured_images

Some picks based on visual beauty:

City of Murmur (width of street varies based on quantity news reports):

http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/File:City_Murmur_Madrid.p...

A Heatmap of Public Transport in Chennai:

http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/File:Chennai_Openstreetma...

Visualization of Flights diverted due to Volcano:

http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/File:ItoWorld_flightRadar...

Helsinki by Night, based on streetlighting info:

http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/File:OSM_By_Night_Helsink...

Demo of Hillshading in the Cycle map:

http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/File:Cyclemap_hill_shadin...

8-bit NYC (New York mapped Zelda style):

http://8bitnyc.com/

Stamen Design's work:

http://www.stamen.com/clients/cloudmade

OpenOrienteering maps:

http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/File:OpenOrienteeringMap_...

Map of London showing color-coded updates:

http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/File:London_map_updates_2...

Isometric 3-D map of Czech Republic:

http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/File:Iso3DMap.jpg

TopOSM, relief shaded maps of the US:

http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/File:TopOSM_example3.jpg

Printed maps:

http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/File:Mappa-mercia-ed1-det...

Tactile map in copper:

http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/File:Rnk-kupfer.jpg

Finally, some nice maps that Nike did based on OpenStreetMap without crediting the source:

http://blog.oobrien.com/2010/04/nike-grid/

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Open Street Map is an incredible resource and really should be supported.

Over at Yell Labs we're looking at producing tiles from OSM that might be more readable on specific devices and include layers that are hold data suited to the way the map is consumed.

An example of this being done already is http://www.opencyclemap.org/ which is generated from Open Street Map but they have reduced the importance of things like motorways, and increased the importance of national and regional cycle routes as well as contours and cycle shops.

Tiles that suit driving don't necessarily suit cycling or walking. When I'm walking I'm more likely to want to see where post boxes, ATM machines and phones are... when I'm cycling I want to see contours and bike routes, and when I'm driving gas station and alternate routes.

This is all possible because of open street map. I don't know how we'd be able to consider tuning the display of devices to device/utility without them. It's a pretty awesome project.

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The article has map samples for comparison at the bottom. I made one for OpenStreetMap, and tried my best to make it a fair comparison.

- Approximately the same zoom level, judged by distance between cities and size of land masses.

- 387x387 pixels (same as images in article)

- Map of approximately the same location

http://img704.imageshack.us/img704/3999/screenshot20100501at...

Here is a second image, zoomed-in by one notch. The level of detail provided is more comparable, but arguably I shouldn't have to zoom in to get this. http://img64.imageshack.us/img64/5959/screenshot20100501at92...

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There are a bunch of different renderings of OSM data available. More importantly, you can download the data and render it however you'd like.

Cloudmade's default rendering of New York looks pretty decent: http://maps.cloudmade.com/?lat=40.741014&lng=-74.009399&... but they also let you create your own style (e.g. http://maps.cloudmade.com/?lat=40.741014&lng=-74.009399&...)

Lars Ahlzen uses OSM data to make beautiful maps at http://toposm.com/

...the list goes on.

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Wow. OSM really is not even close to any of its competitors.

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I was especially disappointed after reading rmc's comment that "One of [OpenStreetMap's] statements is 'We make beautiful maps'".

It's great that the data is made public, and they play an important role there. But if we're only comparing map styles (as the article did), OSM has a long way to go.

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I completely agree. OSM attracts data nerds, not cartographers.

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The modern cartographer (GIS expert?) is interested more in data than in style, I daresay.

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The modern user is interested in both.

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I am a long time OSM contributor but I have to say that the map is very ugly. My major gripe is the rendering of footpaths and stairs as coloured dots instead of eg some grey lines. Also the mess of colours with no apparent style/guide is sad. Some of the styles at cloudmake(?) are nice. "We make beautiful maps" is just wrong if you are talking about the Mapnik rendering.

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I think you're lucky it was forgotten.

- It's highway markers look like gel capsules

- Many users put their hometowns so that they're visible when you zoom out really far (you see the suburbs of Salt Lake City & L.A. before you see SLC & L.A.)

- There seems to be 80 airports in every county (I've never heard of most of the ones around my area)

- It's incomplete in many places

- It doesn't even give you directions

I'm sorry, but I just don't trust OpenStreetMaps over Google Maps. I'm sure there aren't many inaccuracies, but it's not worth taking the chance when I'm traveling in an unfamiliar area.

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> It's highway markers look like gel capsules

There's a long-running bug in Mapnik (the rendering engine for the tiles) that, when completed, will allow for SVG highway markers.

> Many users put their hometowns so that they're visible when you zoom out really far

Can you give more examples of this? More than likely it's due to problems with the import of TIGER data a couple years ago. It should have been fixed.

> There seems to be 80 airports in every county

Yea ... I'll give you that one :).

> It's incomplete in many places

... and in many more places it is more complete than Google, Yahoo, or Bing.

> It doesn't even give you directions

http://openstreetmap.org/ doesn't (the website is for the data and the community around it), but there are several examples of websites that do offer directions using OSM data: http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Routing/OnlineRouters

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> It's highway markers look like gel capsules There's a long-running bug in Mapnik (the rendering engine for the tiles) that, when completed, will allow for SVG highway markers.

It doesn't really matter that they'll be fixed in the future... What matter's is that's how they look now

> Many users put their hometowns so that they're visible when you zoom out really far Can you give more examples of this? More than likely it's due to problems with the import of TIGER data a couple years ago. It should have been fixed

See: http://www.openstreetmap.org/?lat=40.64&lon=-82.05&z...

New York: insignificant NYC suburbs are visible; NYC isn't (Huntington, Islip)

Michigan: no Detroit on the map; but Zeeland and Warren appear

Indiana: Angola, Auburn, Warsaw -- all cities <15,000 pop.

Ohio: Louisville and Willard

Illinois: Algonquin and Harrisburg

Pennsylvania: no Philadelphia on the map; Hazelton and Camden

> There seems to be 80 airports in every county Yea ... I'll give you that one :).

> It's incomplete in many places ... and in many more places it is more complete than Google, Yahoo, or Bing.

This is subjective.

> It doesn't even give you directions http://openstreetmap.org/ doesn't (the website is for the data and the community around it), but there are several examples of websites that do offer directions using OSM data: http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Routing/OnlineRouters

Your solution is too complicated for normal people (read: non-tech people) to figure out.

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Both Warren and Detroit are 'cities' in the US, so both are tagged "place=city", i.e. both at the same level. The map rendered can't draw both, so it can't decide which to show, so it picks one. It's hard to come up with a good way to rank the hierachies of cities.

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> - Many users put their hometowns so that they're visible when you zoom out really far (you see the suburbs of Salt Lake City & L.A. before you see SLC & L.A.)

The data for USA was imported from the US government, the TIGER data. One problem with rendering a map is the importance of cities. Both (say) San Francisco and San Jose are close to each other, and you only have room to show one. Which do you show? The largest population? Larger GDP? Larger cultural influence (how do you measure that?), etc. It's a 'hard problem'.

> - It's incomplete in many places Yes, it's a work in progress, made by voluneteers. However it has come so far in a few years.

> - It doesn't even give you directions There are other OSM-based services that give directions. One I used is CloudMade (http://maps.cloudmade.com/). Some of the people who started OSM founded CloudMade.

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It's worth remembering that OSM in the US is the poor cousin compared with the rest of the world. You should check out London, Netherlands or Germany to see it at its best, where basically none of your points apply.

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OSM is very good for where I am now - the center of Edinburgh (much better than any of the others).

However, rural locations in Scotland look very sparsely mapped.

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Don't forget Mapquest, Rand McNally, Multimap, Ovi Maps, ABmaps, viaMichelin...

...the guy can write about whatever he wants.

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Google's pretty well known for not being so good with design, but when design affects how functional their product is then the do a bang-up job.

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I've long lamented how none of these are anywhere near as beautiful as a decent printed map. Some of the OSM projects (e.g. toposm) are better, but still not as good as (say) Rand-McNally or ADC. On my hope-to-do list is to write a renderer for OSM data that produces really beautiful maps meant for printing rather than viewing on a <100dpi screen.

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I first read this title as Catastrophic Design Differences, which isn't far off. The author is biased in favor of Google Maps (it's a bit hard to differentiate between Google's 1st and 2nd level city markers), but I like the comparison.

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I don't think its biased. Google is clearly more legible and useful. Bing is so so but way too many quirks and unuseful stuff, less legible, Yahoo is just insane. I don't think I've ever used Yahoo so I didn't realize just how bad it was.

Very interesting reasons and analysis of the small differences that all add up to Google maps market dominance.

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Just this week, zooming in my local city Google map, I was struck by the apparent importance of random small businesses.

At 'z=17', I'm getting a 'dance academy' and similar shops I never heard of, or noticed, labeled at the same level as a huge Sheraton hotel. A nearby residential hotel, which I also never noticed, gets to shout its name in all caps ...

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The author clearly prefers Google Maps and is so biased in his analysis it is worthless.

Take the coloring of highways. I actually find Bing's use of multiple colors greatly increases legibility. The increase in contrast also makes it easier to scan over the map. I cannot see how the author can state that less colors results in increased legibility.

Bing Maps to me has a superior coloring scheme. When I look at Google Maps they look like FisherPrice drew the map. Bing Maps' warm and desaturated color scheme makes it feel more mature and consequently much more pleasant to look at.

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Can we knock off this "worthless" bullshit? Just because someone has an opinion on something, doesn't mean that their analysis is "worthless". Comments like these cheapen HN.

OnePlusOne, the same can be said about your comment: "The author of the above comment clearly prefers Bing Maps and is so biased in his analysis it is worthless."

If you're going to bitch about bias, do it without inserting your own.

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I attempted to make clear what I said was purely my opinion and personal preference. The author gives the impression that he is doing an objective analysis when in fact he is just giving a personal opinion. It is deceptive.

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Having an opinion is quite different from being biased though. The author has in the past been quite critical of Google maps (it seems like half the posts on that blog are complaints about some bit of Google maps visualization or another), so I don't think your original claim of bias was very fair.

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OnePlusOne, there was nothing deceptive. It's a fucking blog. It's someone's personal opinion.

I attempted to make clear what I said was purely my opinion and personal preference. The author gives the impression that he is doing an objective analysis when in fact he is just giving a personal opinion.

The author also attempted to make clear that what he said was purely his opinion and personal preference. From the 4th line of the post: ..."I analyze the merits of each of the different styles and discuss what I believe are the advantages and disadvantages of each"...

Your comments are completely out of line.

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People like OnePlusOne are why I don't allow comments on my blog.

The author was quite clear that he was stating his opinion.

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