When faced with a business need for geocoding, software developers need to
make a decision of whether to use a third-party geocoding service like
OpenCage or to build and operate their own geocoding service.
As is often the case in software development, the correct answer is
Each path has pros and cons.
Building / operating / maintaining your own geocoding service
Running your own service is easier than ever as freely available open
data sources like OpenStreetMap make large volumes of data available.
Likewise there are now numerous open source geocoding software projects.
It can make sense to build and run your own geocoder when:
Your requirements are very unique
No commercial service provides exactly what you need.
Your requirements are very basic
You only have limited or basic needs that will not be complicated to
build and maintain. This is especially the case if the underlying data
does not change frequently.
You have the needed skills inhouse
and are likely to always have capacity in your team to maintain your
In Chapter 3 of our
Guide to Reverse Geocoding
we provide a detailed list of
things you should consider in building your own geocoder.
In Chapter 4 of the guide we provide a detailed
tutorial on building your own geocoding service.
The option of using existing open source geocoders (for example
OpenStreetMap's Nominatim), is appealing to many companies, and it can
certainly be a workable solution. Nevertheless, many
organizations underestimate the on-going maintenance challenge. The world is
continually changing, and your underlying dataset will need to be refreshed
regularly. Over the years we have had many customers transition from
hosting and running their own Nominatim to OpenCage. We've
prepared a guide that outlines the main
differences between Nominatim and OpenCage.
If your requirements are very unique a public service like OpenCage may not
be the right match for your needs. We have several clients for whom
we run custom geocoding solutions at very high volume. Please
page if you are in a similar situation.
Using a third-party geocoding solution like OpenCage
Using a third-party especially makes sense when:
You lack the skills or desire to run and maintain your own geocoding service
Your requirements are not particularly unique
This is especially the case if your needs will not be long-term.