Mapbox and Leaflet are the most popular map libraries, both used for displaying and creating interactive maps on the web.
What is the difference between the two? Which one should a person use to add a map to their application?
This article will compare Mapbox vs Leaflet. It will explain the features and pros and cons of each library so you can decide which one you should use or if there is a better option available.
Joining yourself to a service is a permanent decision. You will need to change with the service as it changes. So it is important to compare services to make sure you will be happy with what you get.
Here is the comparison of Mapbox vs Leaflet:
Mapbox is a software development kit (SDK) for developing maps. It is one of the largest providers of custom maps for websites and mobile apps. It has been referred to as the best mapping service outside of Google Maps.
Established companies have used this product, including Facebook, Foursquare, The Weather Channel, and more.
Mapbox keeps its software updated with new technology advancements and features. For example, it includes geospatial mapping and augmented reality (AR).
The majority of the data that Mapbox uses is openly available. They provide fresh updates and stay accurate with rapidly developing data.
This is accomplished with the help of volunteer mappers. They also use sources like OpenStreetMap, Landsat, United States Geological Survey, Natural Earth, and OpenAddresses.
Mapbox is a front runner when it comes to vector map technology. Vector maps make large web maps. Each vector map can be styled.
Mapbox GL supports the Mapbox Style Specification feature to style maps. This feature is popular and used by Geoapify.
Key features of Mapbox:
- Build native applications on IOS with the Mapbox IOS software development kit. Or build native applications on IOS and OS X with MBXMapkit
- Build native applications on Android. For this use Mapbox, OpenStreetMap, or other tile sources. Build overlays with GeoJSON data and create interactive tooltips for the app
Pros of Using Mapbox vs Leaflet:
- Easy to customize map tiles
- Fast loading times due to customized tile generation
- Standardized data flow to organize large projects
- Easy access to data
- Several base maps that can be customized with click editing
- Extensive documentation to aid users
- Default map styling is appealing and attractive
- Highly customizable
- Has a graphical interface for easy map styling
- Works well with large sets of data
- Has a lower price than other map libraries
Cons of Using Mapbox vs Leaflet:
- The system is complex
- Limited success with simple or small map projects
- There is a sizable learning curve for developers who are accustomed to other API’s
- Data standardization is strict and can create difficulties
- Cost may be prohibitive. Mapbox pricing is based on user volume
- Map styling requires learning the system’s idiolect
- At times GIS software and skills, like ArcGIS and QGIS, are required to connect the data to geographic points
- On occasion, the documentation does not provide an adequate understanding of the system
Using Mapbox vs Leaflet is best for complicated maps that require precise control over the various styling aspects. It is also best for maps that require multiple layers of data.
In summary, Mapbox is most useful for complex projects and not for single or simple maps. Mapbox works well when data management is complex. That is because it provides a customized solution that is well suited for a large project.
However, if you are developing your own backends then using Mapbox may be unnecessary and complicate the project.
It was created by Vladimir Agafonkin who joined Mapbox in 2013. Now it is developed by a large community of contributors. It consists of only about 30 KB of gzipped JS code and yet it has features that provide all the tools that most developers need to create online maps.
Leaflet uses raster tiles. Raster tiles are images that are optimized for the internet and work on all types of devices.
These tiles are an excellent choice for displaying imagery and representing continuous data. The tiles are generated on the server so they are static.
Raster tiles can come from Mapbox.com or they can come from other tile servers. Leaflet runs in the browser and turns raster tiles into interactive maps. Leaflet’s core functionality does not have vector tiles but vector tiles can be supported by using external plugins.
One major benefit of Leaflet is that it is free. It is distributed under the BSD-2 Clause license which means there are very few restrictions on its use and distribution.
Key Features of Leaflet include:
- Tile layers
- Inertia software provides drag panning
- Zooming and scrolling wheels
Pros of Using Leaflet vs Mapbox:
- Simple to use
- Compatible with CARTO, Mapbox, Google Maps, and many other platforms
- Open source so others can modify the code
- Contains all the tools developers need to create maps
- Compatible with many plugins to extend functionality and provide developers with any tools that are not included in the main software
- A minimal amount of code is needed to achieve the desired result
- Excellent documentation is provided
- Leaflet has a large community of supporters so where official documentation is lacking community members make up for it by providing comprehensive examples
- Users can start developing a map by copying and pasting from the QuickStart tutorial
- Leaflet works on most devices
- There are more than 600 contributors so updates are released, on average, every six months
- Leaflet can include slippy maps
- Information can be changed into an outline
- Includes mouse interactions
Cons of Using Leaflet vs Mapbox:
- May need to use GIS programming like QGIS to set up information
- In some circumstances, there is a cost for base layers
- Official documentation only contains basic examples. Users have to search the Internet for more examples when help is needed
Leaflet is not GIS but it can be combined with platforms like CARTO or others to fulfill GIS capacities.
Using Leaflet vs Mapbox is best used for multipurpose mapping projects where a graphical interface is not needed.
Leaflet is a great choice when developers are creating a map and not a complicated GIS application. Leaflet is also a great option when the data is GeoJSON and projections are not needed. The main reason why developers like Leaflet is because it is lightweight.
Ending thoughts on Mapbox vs Leaflet
It can be intimidating for someone to create an online map for the first time. Even those who have done it a few times need help along the way. Since there are several tools available that range in complexity and usefulness, it can be hard and confusing to choose which one to use.
This article compared Mapbox vs Leaflet. Mapbox and Leaflet are two popular but different mapping libraries. There is an alternative for WordPress users. MapSVG is an easy to use mapping plugin with Google Maps integration that accomplishes many mapping tasks.
With MapSVG you can:
- Create a Google Map
- Overlay a Google Map with scalable vector graphics (SVG)
- Add custom SVG artwork to a Google Map
The scalable vector graphics are positioned on Google Maps with latitude and longitude coordinates.
MapSVG provides the tools needed to create interactive maps in an easy and fun way. It includes features such as:
- More than 100 geo-calibrated maps
- A world map that is divided into countries and regions. All the regions are clickable
- Country maps with states and provinces
- Some special maps
Most of the maps included with MapSVG are calibrated so users can add markers and icons using addresses and coordinates. Users can also create their own SVG maps and upload them to MapSVG.
Hopefully, this article aids you in deciding which map library suits you best.
If you liked this article about Mapbox vs Leaflet, you should also check out this article about free mapping software.
A bit obvious by now, but we really like maps so we wrote even more about subjects like the blank map of Italy, Africa, Australia, and a few others, about websites with maps using interactive maps, and SVG animation examples.