Take a deep breath and repeat after us – ‘there are some great alternatives to Google out there’. Got it? Feel better? Good. We’re now so indoctrinated to thinking that Google offers the best of everything, that maybe we’re forgetting that there some great projects and services around which don’t have anything to do with the company.
For example we’ve been using a couple of services which provide an elegant alternative to Google Maps, and they’re pretty cool. Both make use of the openstreetmap data, and one is open source, which means you can freely use the content any way you like.
Cloudmade is actually a demo of the kind of commercial mapping services they offer, so not open source, but since the demo is built on top of openstreetmaps, that part is very much open. We love the speed and flexibility of the route feature, which means all you have to do is right mouse click anywhere on the map to get your route delivered instantly.
There’s also a great map editor, which lets you change the total look and feel of the maps to your desired result.
Open Source Routing Machine (or OSRM) is, as the name suggests, an open source map and routing service which offers super quick routes from your choice of locations. It’s not as flexible as the Cloudmade product, because you only get car routes (as opposed to bicycle, walking etc), but you do get a choice of satellite and terrain, and you can select languages and distance units, which is cool.
Like Cloudmade you can also just click to select origin and destination points, which is ultra fast for finding routes. Both of these systems let you export your route as a satellite navigation system compatible GPX file or generate a link. OSRM also lets you produce a QR barcode of the route, which is a cool way of getting it into your smartphone in a couple of seconds.
Here’s a full listing in wiki form of all the routing map services currently available from OpenStreetMap.org.