OpenLayers and Leaflet

The world of open source software sometimes seems as competative as the proprietary world. So also in the field of web mapping clients. For many years (since 2006) OpenLayers was the only player in town (that is, if you wanted a mature, stable, customizable and open source javascript mapping library that is).

Then came the new kid on the block, Leaflet, (in 2011). Where OpenLayers supported IE6, has support for almost all projections and tiling schemes you could think of, Leaflet was the “Javascript hipster”, with a streamlined API, modern JavaScript, small footprint and gained a large following in short time. All the while Leaflet rose to fame, OpenLayers started its fundraising campaign to support the development of the promised version 3, a complete rewrite with more modern Javascript, a smaller footpront and lots of improvement.

Some may think that OpenLayers has lost it’s throne, but when I checked the list of submitted talks to FOSS4G 2013 I was a bit supprised: 5 talks mentioned Leaflet, while a tenfold as many mentioned OpenLayers. I guess OpenLayers is going nowhere, and still has a strong standing!

But then, after mentioning this on Twitter and getting some feedback, I started to think a bit. And what I thought of was this: Is it really “fair” to compare Leaflet and OpenLayers? My point of view is a bit split, I kinda grew in to the world of geo-web-development with OpenLayers back in 2009, learning Javascript and OpenLayers simulataneously. This has colored my view quite a bit, but then again, after becoming more and more of a Javascript Hipster myself, I find myself drawn to the clean, sleek code of Leaflet. But, from my time in the industry I know there are huge differences between startups and “web companies” and the large players in the geospatial field. Many of those big players have “gone opensource”, and based their web mapping presence on OpenLayers (and derivatives thereof). These players (like the Norwegian Mapping agency, as a norwegian I like to use examples I know) are “slow movers”, and I don’t see them switching over to Leaflet anytime soon. And why should they? Requirements like support for old browsers and OGC-standards are esential for the needs of such players.

And again, I do think that OpenLayers will manage to release it’s version 3, and I have high hopes for the code of that version. Maybe I can be a Javascript hipster with OpenLayers? Which reminds me, I gotta get around to contribute a bit to the project!

My point? Well, not quite sure, but I hope and think that the “rivalry” between the libraries and (maybe even more so), the supporters of the libraries, are kept at a sivilized level, where one debates the technology and performance of the products. And, I also feel that these libraries fills two, rather overlapping, but also different needs and “markets”. And I kinda wanted to blog a bit in english 🙂

Thoughts? Comments? Opinions?

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