Tile Servers

Tiles, what's that?

Most maps on the Internet are based on tiles. These are, usually, PNG images of 256x256 pixels each, that form a map stitched together. They are a core ingredient of fast zoomable and pannable maps because they can be cached both on the server and client side. When the map view is moved, the client does not have to download the whole map image, but only those tiles that have not been downloaded yet. On server side, all tiles are cached so that one client profits from recent requests made by another. Due to this two-level caching, tiles have a big performance advantage over technologies like WMS.

Tileserver as a Service

The OpenStreetMap project provides its own tile servers for free. However, that offer is aimed at those who contribute to OpenStreetMap and would like to have feedback for their work, and at the general public to whom OpenStreetMap wants to demonstrate what can be achieved with the collected data. OpenStreetMap's servers are run on donations and by volunteers, so large-scale use in commercial projects is frowned upon. Also, the OpenStreetMap servers can be rather busy at times.

The EarthOnDrive tile servers are an alternative for commercial users who do not want to rely on volunteer-provided services. The tile servers are based on the same technology as the servers of OpenStreetMap. Switching from OSM's to our tile servers does not require a change in your application, apart from modifying the tile source URL.

Our clients receive an individual API key (32 long alphanumeric string) which is provided in the URL. Additional API keys can be provided on request if a clients want to distinguish different applications.

Our tile server clients have a choice between multiple different map styles. Because the rendered tiles are stored as raster images on the server side, all clients share the same cache and get the tiles more quickly if they have been requested by another client. On the other hand, the shared tile server does not offer custome map style changes.

Map styles

OpenStreetMap data itself does not contain any information how it should be rendered on a map. This decision is made by the cartographer who defines in a map style how each feature is to appear on the map.

Customers of our tile server plans "small", "medium", and "large" can choose between from the following map styles:

  • Standard is a slightly modified version of OSM Carto which is used on the OpenStreetMap website. The map style is colourful and shows plenty of details. Labelling is done in the local language.
  • English is a modification of OSM Carto. Labels in the local language are extended by the English name. If no English name is available and the local language does not use Latin script, a transliterated name is shown.
  • German is a branch of OSM Carto for Germany. The map style is used on the German OpenStreetMap website. It uses a color scheme for roads and boundaries modified for the German market, and a few different symbols. Labelling follows the same rules as English but uses German instead of English.
  • Topo is a map style with pale colors and fewer features. It is well suited for maps with overlays. It contains contour lines and hillshading. Labelling follows the same rules as English.

You are not limited to the above styles if you use a dedicated tile server which we set up and run for you (XXL plan). On request, we can add a different map style or develop a new one for you. Please have a look at our map style gallery for inspiration.

Features included


The "small", "medium", and "large" plans include the usage of our geocoding service based on Nominatim within reason in order to allow our clients to add a search box to their map applications. The included service is not intended for systematic geocoding, bulk geocoding and auto completion. We reserve the right to renegotiate the contract if the usage is too high. Larger contingents can be ordered if necessary.

Static Map

All our tile server rates include the usage of our Static Map service. It returns a static image in PNG format for a given coordinate and zoom level. The image is created by stitching together the individual map tiles on server side. It is often necessary in content management systems which permit the inclusion of static images only. Overlays, such as markers, lines or polygons, can be added using URL parameters. The generated map images are cached on the server. Our Static Map service is based on the software GfStaticmap.

Billing is based on the number of tiles requested by the Static Map service from our tile servers.


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