MapQuest Developer Blog

Licensed Data vs. Open Data: Which is Better?

Good data is the backbone of any location-based service or application. When building your application, you may find yourself waffling between licensed data versus open data. Your biggest question is probably “which one is right for my application?” The answer depends on your user experience.

Data defined

Licensed Data is, as the name implies, data compiled from a number of our commercial data providers. This data is updated quarterly and verified by our vendors, ensuring accuracy and reliability. Open data, provided primarily by the OpenStreetMap (OSM) community, is crowdsourced data compiled by a global community of map fanatics. Just how dedicated is the OSM community to having good data? During their punfully titled Mappy Hours, users gather to scope out streets, trails/walking paths/biking paths, places of interest (POIs), and landmarks.

Defining your data needs

Do you need POI data and locations marked everywhere from New York City, to Dinosaur, Colorado? If your business takes you to every corner of the country, licensed data provides a more reliably thorough scope. Also, with regular, quarterly updates, you can be sure that all places great and small are reviewed, verified and updated with a regular cadence. OSM has strong data in urban areas, especially in large cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, etc, and it’s constantly being updated. If you want your users to be able to contribute updates and edits that can be shared with the greater OSM community, open is for you.

Defining your business

Are you interested in our Extended Rights Geocoding (ERG) to store your geocodes in a database as well as a map? Currently, ERG is only available to licensed data customers. For more information about ERG, click here.

The Small Print

There are some rules involved with the use of Open data. Namely, due legal requirements from both our licensed data partners and Open Source Initiative, you cannot cross the open and licensed streams. Whichever data stream you choose, that is the one to which you are committed. For more information about open data, please see our Open APIs documentation.