Can OpenStreetMap replace Google Earth?

Can OpenStreetMap replace Google Earth?

I need to build a website which needs to perform the following tasks:

  1. Display a web map with topographical details
  2. On the map show a set of selected streets
  3. When a street is selected show a set of points of interest on that street

The constraints are:

  1. Ruby on Rails as a programming language

  2. Everything in the stack must be open source

    I've given an interested look at OpenStreetMap will it work for the needed tasks?


Actually there is a product using Google Earth in this company but they want to change it due to its commercial cost.

If you don't need satellite imagery or 3D stuff it's possible with a combination of:

  • OSM data imported in Postgresql/Postgis (via osm2pgsql)
  • Mapnik used to render map tiles
  • OpenLayers used to display the web map (serving tiles rendered by Mapnik)
  • some Javascript middleware (ExtJS) to facilitate retrieving data as required by vector layers and build UI components
  • some server side component (Ruby on Rails based if required) that queries the Postgis/Postgresql database for features (i.e. geometry of selected streets, nearby POIs).

We have an application built on top of the above at that shows mountain hiking trails from OpenStreetMap (server side is Java based).

Note: You can do some 3D stuff by integrating altitude profiles (NASA srtm) with the OpenStreetMap data.

Your first requirement is that you should be able to

Display a web map with topographical details

This won't be that easy with open street maps. With google maps, the 'terrain' view is good enough to show basic topographical details.

With Open street maps, you'll have to have your own server which serves topographical data.

Can OpenStreetMap replace Google Earth? - Geographic Information Systems

OpenStreetMap (OSM) is a huge collection of volunteered geographic information stores in different types of files, using different encoding schemes to convert this data into bits and bytes. OSM is a collaborative effort toward the creation of a free editable map of the world. The primary output of this collaborative effort is geographic data rather than the map itself. The constraints on the use or availability of geographic information across much of the world triggers the need to create an OSM. The data available from OSM is ready to replace Google Maps for classical applications (Facebook, Craigslist etc.) and default data for GPS receiver’s applications.^^ ^^Although data quality is diverse across the world yet OpenStreetMap data can be conveniently compared with patent data sources.

Mapping the World with OpenStreetMap : OSM

OpenStreetMap (OSM) is supported by OpenStreetMap Foundation, is an open source project maintained by the OpenStreetMap Community that provides free editable maps of the whole world. OSM motivation was to make a restriction free mapping solution that may be used for business and non-commercial usage without any limitation. The data generated by the OpenStreetMap project is taken into account its primary output. The OpenStreetMap data is available for use in both traditional applications, like its usage by Craigslist, OsmAnd, Geocaching, and Foursquare, etc. to replace Google Maps and replacing the default data included with GPS receivers. In 2012, Google Maps raises pricing for using their API services, this led many websites to switch from Google Maps to OpenStreetMap and other competitors. Foursquare, Craigslist were the first to move, who adopted OpenStreetMap, and Apple, which launched a self-built mapping platform.

History of OpenStreetMap

The Project was founded in 2004 by Steve Coast as a non-profit organization, initially focusing on mapping the United Kingdom. The OpenStreetMap Foundation was established in April 2006, for the development and distribution of free to use geospatial data of the whole world and provide these free data to anybody for use and share as per requirement. Yahoo Inc, encourages OpenStreetMap in December 2006, by allowing to use its aerial photography for map production. In 2006 First Offline OpenStreetMap Editor launched named “JOSM”. In October 2007, US Census TIGER road dataset made available and Oxford University became the first major organization to use OpenStreetMap their main website.

OpenStreetMap uses a topological data structure, elements are the core components:

  • Nodes are points features, stored as pairs of coordinates (latitude and longitude) Point Features are used to represent map features, such as points of interest or depth, well etc.
  • Ways represent a polyline, or a polygon feature if they form a closed loop. They are used for representing linear features such as streets and rivers, and as well as areas, like Building Footprints, parks, and lakes.
  • Relations used to explain how other features or elements work together, where each member can optionally have a “role” within the relations. Examples route relations form a highway, turn restrictions on that particular highway. Relations can have multiple meanings, thus each relation’s meaning will be defined by its “Tag”.
  • Tags All types of data element will have Tags, they are defined as key-value pairs. A Tag is used to store metadata about the map objects (such as their type, their name, and their physical properties). Tags are always attached to an object: to a node, a way or a relation.

Advantages and disadvantages of OSM

It is one of the most well-known and most complete existing so far mapping services. Some of the main Advantages of OSM include:

  • Free, OSM is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 (CC BY-SA) which allows a user to download, copy, modify, and include it in other projects.
  • Restriction, User have to pay to use google map services, while in OSM it’s provided free and without any restrictions.
  • Customization, It can be used with a third-party application for customization.
  • Effective, A group of Volunteer Developer is constantly working on adding features to services.
  • Flexibility, User can insert any new feature instantly using OpenStreetMap with a few clicks and it gets reflected within a short time.

Some of the main challenges of OSM

  • Manipulation, each registered OSM user can make changes to the map, there is no automatic mechanism against errors or misuse.
  • Completeness, because the OSM are participation project, this enables the maps to be very detailed in the population centers in contrast to the rural areas.
  • Quality Checks, No systematic quality check performed on OSM data. The user uses the data at their own risk.

OSM Map Production

Map data is collected and captured from scratch by volunteers by performing ground surveys using GPS devices, notebook and digital camera. These collected data is then entered into the OpenStreetMap database. Mapping competition (Mapathon) are also held by OpenStreetMap Foundation and other non-profit organizations to map a particular area. The availability of aerial photography and different information from commercial and government sources has further added an important sources of data for manual editing and automated data imports.

Software for editing OSM

As OpenStreetMap is an open platform with and editing API (Application Programming Interface), there are many editors available to choose from.

Editing of maps can be done using the default web browser editor called iD. iD is an Online Editor for OpenStreetMap. It is currently the default editor for OpenStreetMap under Edit tab. It doesn’t require a flash plugin as it is created using JavaScript and work in most modern web browsers.

The earlier Flash based application Potlatch is retained for beginners. It requires a Flash Plugin in the browser.

JOSM and Merkaartor are more powerful desktop editing application and offers a large set of features for editing. These application allow users to use Aerial imagery as a background for tracing the feature. Once the user completed the edits, it can be uploaded to OSM.

Vespucci is a first and only full featured editor for Android, it was released in 2009. StreetComplete is new Android app launched in 2016, it allows users to add some specific information without any OpenStreetMap knowledge. It provides ability to edit data without internet connection. OsmAnd is a navigation app which allows users to add, delete and update POIs data. It’s fully offline application and supports Notes.

Aspose.GIS for .NET is a GIS data manipulation and conversion API. It fully supports reading, writing and converting famous GIS data formats such as ESRI Shapefiles, GeoJSON, TopoJSON, ESRI Geodatabase, Geography Markup Language, Google Earth, GPS Exchange Format, MapInfo Formats and OpenStreetMap. It is a standalone .NET based API and does not require any GIS based softwares like ArcGIS / ArcMap, QGIS etc. ‎

OSM What is OSM File Format

OpenStreetMap (OSM) is a huge collection of volunteered geographic information stores in different types of files, using different encoding schemes to convert this data into bits and bytes. OSM is a collaborative effort toward the creation of a free editable map of the world. The primary output of this collaborative effort is geographic data rather than the map itself. The constraints on the use or availability of geographic information across much of the world triggers the need to create an OSM. The data available from OSM is ready to replace Google Maps for classical applications (Facebook, Craigslist etc.) and default data for GPS receiver’s applications. Although data quality is diverse across the world yet OpenStreetMap data can be conveniently compared with patent data sources. Read More

SHX What is SHX File Format

Shape index format, a positional index of the feature geometry to allow seeking forwards and backwards quickly Read More

How OpenStreetMap works

If you decide to move onto using OpenStreetMap, you have two options:

  • you can use maps directly from their server
  • you can set up your own tile server in-house

I’m not going to talk here about the first option, you can find some information about using OpenStreetMap directly with a JavaScript library in the ‘Setting up your JavaScript library of choice’ section. Further down are the instructions on how to set up the tile server yourself.

Now the main question: is the OpenStreetMap solution free? Well, in a sense yes, cause the data you use is freely available, but at the end of the day you need to pay somehow for the server resources you use to serve that data. On top of that you need to add the cost of maintaining the server, especially if you want your maps to be up to date.

Google Authenticator alternatives

Google Authenticator makes it easy to use 2FA (two factor authentication) on sites and services that support it. But it only works on your smartphone, and doesn’t save backups of your authentication keys. If your mobile device is lost or stolen, regaining access to all your sites and services can be a real headache. There are a number of alternatives out there, including:

    – The main competitor to Google Authenticator. Can back up your authentication keys making it much easier to recover after a problem. Includes versions for iOS, Android, and desktops and can sync your keys between all of them.

    There’s only one drawback to Authy for us privacy types – it is not open source. – A free and open source replacement for Google Authenticator on iOS and Android devices. Attractive and easy to use, but features are limited. – Another free and open source authenticator with backup/restore capability. Only works on Android devices.

Other alternatives to Google Authenticator include the authenticator built into some password managers (LastPass, for example) and hardware security keys like the Yubikey line of products.

Scout Goes Global with GPS Navigation Powered by OpenStreetMap

Sunnyvale, California – May 19, 2014 — Telenav (NASDAQ: TNAV), the leader in personalized navigation, announced today that its free U.S. Scout for iPhone app will use the crowd-sourced and free OpenStreetMap (OSM) for all map data. OSM, the “Wikipedia of Maps,” offers users a more accurate and up-to-date map than what is available via commercial maps. The rollout of OSM starts today for some Scout users and will be fully implemented for all users by the end of this week. The company plans to switch to OSM for Scout for Android in the U.S. in June. Scout’s companion website,, is already using OSM.

Additionally, Telenav announced today that through a rebrand of the popular skobbler GPS Navigation app for iOS and Android, Scout is now available in over 50 app store markets with maps and navigation for almost 200 countries. skobbler’s GPS Navigation app was the first OSM navigation app in the world. Telenav acquired skobbler earlier this year.

With this launch, Scout is supporting a growing community of global OSM editors. The OSM community has doubled year over year to more than 1.6 million registered editors, with people mapping every country around the world, ranging from the U.S. to Germany and Lesotho to North Korea.

The OSM crowd-sourced model enables edits to be published every minute, resulting in maps that are often more detailed and more up to date than commercially available maps. In addition to reporting traffic or accidents, now anyone using Scout can send mapping feedback directly from the app to Scout OSM editors who will let the person know once the data has been reviewed and updated.

“As a mapping platform, OSM is a credible alternative to proprietary solutions, with the added advantage of instant updates, resulting in a more accurate and up-to-date map,” said Steve Coast, founder of OpenStreetMap and Telenav’s head of OSM. “Roads change, subdivisions are built, and freeways expand so, just like all other maps, it needs updates on an ongoing basis. Today’s launch has effectively added millions of editors to the OSM global community, breathing even more life into an already exploding free and open-sourced project. Compare this to the billions of dollars that Google has spent – and will have to continue to spend – on keeping its maps updated and I think you can understand why we have switched to OSM.”

“This is a turning point for the mapping industry,” continued Coast. “The amount of effort and investment needed in order to provide high-quality turn-by-turn navigation using OSM crowd-sourced map data cannot be understated. We expect a significant return on our investments to create a better map platform for navigation using the free OSM. It took Telenav years of OSM community engagement, advanced algorithms, technology development, and road testing to reach a point where we felt it was ready for consumers. Now that we are here, we can’t wait for the world to try Scout with OSM. As for the global community of editors, this is true validation that their enthusiasm and passion for making a free, editable map of the world has made a dramatic impact on the evolution of maps and navigation.”

The OSM rollout is automatic for Scout users and does not require an app update. Separately, Telenav also announced today that it has launched a Scout Maps and Navigation SDK, the first GPS navigation SDK that allows mobile app and developers to integrate OpenStreetMap-based GPS navigation and maps within their own products. The new Scout for Developers program also includes a new Scout Maps API for desktop and mobile websites using OSM, allowing developers to replace Google Maps. More information is available at

Today, Telenav is also sharing in the celebration of its OSM launch by kicking off a map-editing contest at where map editors have a chance to win various prizes including cash and tablets.

How to Replace Google Calendar

Since a good calendar requires such a simple feature set, you don’t miss out on much by going with something other than Google Calendar.

If you work in a company of any size, you’re probably already familiar with the calendar built into Microsoft Outlook. They also offer a free version to anyone with a Microsoft account. Apple also offers iCloud Calendars to anyone with an iCloud account. Personally, since I’m up to my neck in Apple’s ecosystem, I use iCloud Calendars for everything. Outside of these options, you can consider local calendars on each of your devices, but they won’t sync events. That, plus integration with things like Gmail or Outlook is the main reason people go with Google, Apple, or Microsoft.

In general, 3rd-party contacts apps that have access to the Contacts permission to use the Contacts Provider can be an alternative to Google Contacts (or any other stock contacts apps).

The Contacts Provider is the standard approach to share and use contact info between apps.

The Contacts Provider is a powerful and flexible Android component that manages the device's central repository of data about people. The Contacts Provider is the source of data you see in the device's contacts application, and you can also access its data in your own application and transfer data between the device and online services.

The Contacts Provider will interact with the system app Contacts Storage, which is independent of any contacts apps. So, even though the user uninstalls/disables all their contacts apps, the contact info is still stored on the Contacts Storage and can be read by other apps like phone apps, messaging apps, email apps, etc.

So, any famous & reliable 3rd-party contacts apps that request access to the Contacts permission should be feasible as an alternative to Google Contacts.

In the case of Simple Contacts app, it actually has the Contacts permission, and any contacts that are created from this app to a registered account on Contacts Provider can also be accessed by other apps.

On the other hand, the app also allows the contact to be saved on "Phone storage (not visible by other apps)". Based on its source code, this is actually another way to store contacts by using their own local database, which other apps do not know about its existence and do not have permission to access it, thus the contacts cannot be read.

In conclusion, the Simple Contacts app is actually a feasible alternative* for Google Contacts.

*Tested by creating 2 contacts one with the answerer's Google account which then can be read by Google Messages, another with the phone storage which cannot be accessed by Google Messages.

Buried in the help pages for Google docs I did find a page that discusses uploading multiple versions of a file

You can upload different versions of the same file to your Documents List and easily keep track of them by selecting the Add or manage versions. option (or View versions. if you have viewing permission only).

This feature lets you upload new versions of a file, as well as download previous versions of it, and delete older versions. It makes it easier overall to collaborate on a file with other people. Each version counts toward your total Google Docs storage quota, so you should clean out older versions every once in a while.

This feature is available for uploaded files that are not in Google Docs format. For Google Docs, you can use the revision history, which lets you see all the different versions of a doc.

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Watch the video: Switching away from Google Maps: Here Maps, Bing Maps, OpenStreetMap..