Tiled Basemaps: the Survey

Monday, July 8, 2013

The time has come once again for a taking of the geopulse! In years past I've asked broad questions about platform-level technology use, but this year I'm getting more specific:

Yes, I realize that the very concept of tiles is about to go the way of the Avenue script, but the present moment is still flush with amazing cartography served up in square chunks. For this survey I've chosen a selection of "Streetmap" styles from the major players, since imagery is another can of worms entirely.

I've built a comparison app here (with thanks to Dair Grant for the idea). Check it out and vote for your favorite.

Note: It's not possible to get a perfect comparison, since some maps tiles are locked to a particular API (what up, Apple), and others were too hard to parse into a single web map (Was a quadkey scheme really necessary, Bing?). Feel free to add these in if they serve as your go-to basemaps anyway.

Thanks for participating, and check back here for results in a few weeks!


  1. "Some maps tiles are locked to a particular API (what up, Apple)" ...and google. Don't forget you only get to use google here because you're using the google maps javascript library. ...which isn't ideal (and possibly legally problematic if we're being anal) because it requires to you have google logo and terms of use displayed alongside other people's maps.

    There's a few nice options have you haven't included in the smackdown, well loads presumably, but Mapquest Open and OpenCycleMap are favourites of mine

    1. It's true - Using the Google API was the only way I could get them all in, though the OpenLayers workaround is still there. But at least Google still has an actual tileserver to compare to; my point was that by serving vectors in mobile-only format, Apple is in a world of its own.

      And please vote for the basemaps you like in the "Other" selection; I'm seeing a lot come in that way (and I'm also a big fan of the OpenCycleMap).