OpenStreetMap is the hands-down favorite dataset of Foursquare and other companies that have migrated from Google Maps. OpenStreetMap is a collaborative effort to create a free, user-editable map of the world--think of it as a Wikipedia for maps. Anyone with a WordPress website can use OpenStreetMap on their website right away simply by installing its WordPress plugin. OpenStreetMap isn’t a drop-in replacement for Google Maps, however; you’ll need a third-party tool to enable your visitors to obtain directions to your location and to draw out other data. Here are two of the best examples:
MapQuest’s Map Builder Beta is a great, free solution for retail businesses that are already accustomed to using Google Maps. You can use it to embed static or interactive maps that provide your customers with driving directions, highlight particular routes, identify specific locations, and more--all without having to do any HTML coding. Map Builder is also available as a WordPress plugin. You’ll find additional information here.
If you’d like to embed more elaborate maps into your site, MapBox Streets replicates the easy-to-use nature of Google Maps while delivering an upscale user experience. It offers a free service for sites that expect to serve fewer than 3000 map views per month, with pay levels serving increasingly higher limits and bringing additional features.
The pay levels start at $5 per month (for 7500 map views) and top out at $499 per month (for 1 million map views and dedicated support with 24-hour response time). Most small businesses will be well served by the $50 per month package that provides 50,000 map views, branding-free maps, and analytics tools. MapBox also offers a free open-source tool, called TileMill, that allows you to create static maps you can use on your website, in reports, or in presentations.
Once businesses get a taste of the tools that are available to build better maps, Google Maps may have to step up its game and make its product more attractive to retain its user base. For now, familiarity and ease-of-use are on its side.