Mapping your whereabouts?
Maps are useful for many different purposes including learning about our world, planning a trip, getting directions, deciding on where to move to and visualizing where our social network friends live. The following ten websites are the most popular choices for any and all of these tasks. They all operate a little differently with some having some unique tools that can prove useful. They are listed in the order of Alexa traffic rank scores. People often find they have a favorite that they turn to for most things but it is nice to have other options with features that might just be the perfect tool for a particular circumstance.
1. Google Maps: https://maps.google.com/
Global Alexa Rating: 1
The most popular web mapping service in the world for good reason – it includes the entire world and includes a number of useful features. Because it can be accessed both on the web and from Smartphones it is useful both at home and on the go. By being able to see incredible street views it is almost like traveling the globe right from the comfort of your home – no airline tickets required. A great tool for teaching children about the world. Travelers will enjoy the various ads that come up for hotels and other services when each main city or country is selected. Satellite imagery is generally between 1 and 3 years old. The types of maps available are map, satellite, terrain and street. There is also a 3D mode with a plugin.
2. Yahoo Maps: http://maps.yahoo.com/
Global Alexa Rating: 4
Launched back in 2002 it is one of the oldest web mapping services available. Their satellite imagery is also generally between 1 and 3 years old. A nice feature of Yahoo maps is the ability to locate local business and services around whatever point the user chooses. This can make it really easy when planning a trip to locate lodging, restaurants and other services. Once a keyword is selected all relevant locations are given a pinpoint. Mousing over the pinpoints gives all relevant data regarding that location including name, address, telephone number and star rating. Simply click more info to get more detailed information for the business including reviews. Mousing over a search point also gives the current weather for that location. It does not currently have a 3D mode.
3. Mapquest: http://www.mapquest.com/
Global Alexa Rating: 709
Launched in 1996, Mapquest is owned by AOL and has been a favorite for a long time. Zooming is not able to be done in all areas of the world but it does offer both map and satellite maps. It does not get as close as other mapping services but some people prefer that for the sake of privacy. Overall Mapquest is easier to use than many other mapping services. Getting directions with Mapquest is easy and flexible because you can reorder your route by dragging and dropping sections of the route. Once a route is determined it can also be sent to a mobile device with the Send to Cell option. Not the most flexible mapping option but perfect for simple tasks.
4. Wikimapia: www.wikimapia.org
Global Alexa Rating: 1,304
Going to this website somehow magically knows to bring up the map relevant to your home location or at least it seems like magic. A really cool feature of this mapping service is that clicking on certain areas of the map brings up a sidebar to the left with all kinds of interesting facts about the location and links to various websites. Although only select locations are offered, this is a nice touch. They only began in 2006 so in time they will likely have much more mapped out with information. Users can also select from 15 categories and icons will pop up on the map. This is a useful tool for finding stores, restaurants, hotels, schools, hospitals and other interesting places. Once the icons are present clicking on them brings up information on the left sidebar.
5. Yandex Maps: www.maps.yandex.com
Global Alexa Rating: 1,821
Yandex Maps is a popular mapping service in Russia mostly but anyone can use it to bring up simple maps and get directions. Like some other mapping services it allows user to drag a route to change it and thus take a different route. It is a pretty basic website which is perfect for those that do not need a bunch of bells and whistles. One nice tool is a ruler that will give the distance between two points as the crow flies. Probably the greatest feature is the ability to click on two points and instantly get directions between the two coordinates. From there you can pick up either of the points and move it to a new location.
6. Mappy: http://en.mappy.com/#
Global Alexa Rating: 4,305
Mappy began as a web mapping service that offered just maps of European countries but they have since added maps for other areas as well. The itinerary tab is for obtaining travel directions and it does only work for European countries still. There is also a tab for weather that gives current weather information for the location of your choice as provided by The Weather Channel. It won’t help those that want to pull up weather in areas that are accustomed to temperature shown in Fahrenheit since it lists them in Celsius scale instead. All in all not a bad mapping service but best left to European users for full functionality.
Global Alexa Rating: 4,378
Here offers some unique features that are worth taking a look at. One feature is the ability to check traffic flows, jams and more in a number of cities around the world. It uses the platform traffic.com that used to be freestanding. Select one of the offered cities and find out about construction delays. Enter in your beginning and ending points and Here automatically maps the route and shows the normal duration of the trip as well as how long it will take in current traffic. It even gives an alternate route also with times and distance. It is super easy to print out a route as well. Another feature of the program that is impressive is that there are various settings so that users can customize things such as whether to show distance in miles or kilometers. The language can even be changed making it great for users around the globe. They offer a terrain map as well as a 3D map for those that have a computer than can support it. Users can even opt to have weather conditions show on the map automatically. A really impressive mapping service.
8. OpenStreetMap: http://www.openstreetmap.org/
Global Alexa Rating: 5,438
OpenStreetMap was launched in 2004 and is a nice mapping tool for those that want to create a custom map. It has plenty of website translations and unlimited map languages. It is not the easiest mapping program to use but once a user gets the hang of the tools it can be quite useful. The interesting thing about this mapping is that users add points to the map which show up with a red x until verified and then show as a green checkmark. Users can also make changes to the map when they find something isn’t correct. So while this isn’t the reference type of map to depend on for travel, it can be a great deal of fun.
9. Road Trippers: https://roadtrippers.com/
Global Alexa Rating: 24,247
Road Trippers is a mapping tool that is geared towards planning and enjoying a road trip in the United States. The website does show maps for the rest of the world and a trip can be planned that extends outside the U.S. but the various places to add to the map such as attractions, entertainment, accommodations and more only show for within the U.S. border. A really nice road trip tool in that it tells you where the attractions are including scenic points, amusement parks and even offbeat attractions. The categories for accommodations give the flexibility of choosing a chain hotel or plenty of other choices such as B&B’s and vacation rentals. Put in your vehicle’s fuel mpg figure and get an estimate of the fuel costs for your trip. A great tool is being able to add all the points of interest you are looking for and then plan the trip around that. Want to see all the vineyards in a five state area? How about all the baseball stadiums? With this program planning a trip like that would be a breeze.
10. Rand McNally: http://maps.randmcnally.com/
Global Alexa Rating: 79,327
Rand McNally has long been the authority on road atlases so it stands to reason that they would also develop an online mapping website. What is surprising is that a company that has been into maps as long as they have doesn’t have the fanciest most useful site of all. It isn’t bad and will get the job done but it isn’t anything fancy. While there is some flexibility is determining a route the website lacks the ability to make drag and drop adjustments. You can get there the quickest route or the shortest route with a few options for things you want to avoid such as toll roads or highways.
If all one is interested in is getting directions, one way to test the various sites is to put in a request for directions for a route you already know how long it normally takes and see how long each of them lists. It is really surprising just how far off some of them can be. The worst of the bunch in terms of being far off on timing seems to be the Rand McNally website so although it is fine for obtaining directions it might not be the best option for determining how much time to plan for the trip. It would be a shame to not enjoy some of the other great features of many of these mapping services though – have fun and see what the rest of the world looks like. Most of these websites include satellite images which are great for finding out more about this wonderful planet.