Best online maps? Surprise!

Want to find a place online? Want to see a map? Where do you go? Google’s maps, right?

Guess what? It’s not the best – at least not for Addis!

Take a look at these two maps:

Which one looks better? Which one has more detail? The top one is from Google Maps while the bottom one is from

What’s OpenStreetMap?, you might say. It might not be as famous as Google’s work, but it’s well worth a look. OpenStreetMap is an open and freely accessible collection of map data that anyone can contribute to. Consider it a “Wikipedia” for mapping. As such, it has a wealth of information about all kinds of places. Certainly there is more detail about Addis Ababa than on the Google map.

Don’t take my word for it: the Guardian has written about it for quite some time. Here’s an article from a year ago comparing the two services in various places.

One of the greatest things about OpenStreetMap is that it is completely editable. Go ahead, give it a try! It’s not hard. (Do you see the new location of Aba Guben on the OSM screenshot above? That was me!) Plenty of people in Addis are adding data – and the more who do, the better the maps will get.

Google has recently launched its MapMaker service – so you can add to a Google Map as well. It’s not hard either, but there are some differences. Probably the biggest difference is that the changes you make to Google Maps are owned by Google. You’re doing their work for them. OpenStreetMaps data is all freely licensed – if you want to use their data, you are allowed. This may not mean much to individuals, but for businesses with high-volume websites, they have to pay (and pay quite a bit) to use Google’s maps. They can freely use OpenStreetMaps. Again, don’t take my word: here’s one map-contributor’s comparison of the two services.

So go ahead: use OpenStreetMap. Add your favorite places to it. Show off Addis! (If you want more guidance, here is a good place to start.)


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