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Cesium vs OpenLayers: What are the differences?

Key Differences between Cesium and OpenLayers


Cesium and OpenLayers are both open-source JavaScript libraries used for creating web-based mapping applications. While they share the same purpose, there are several key differences between the two.

  1. 3D Capabilities: Cesium is primarily designed for creating 3D map visualizations, while OpenLayers is more focused on 2D maps. Cesium provides advanced 3D features, including terrain visualization, lighting effects, and support for 3D models. OpenLayers, on the other hand, is better suited for traditional 2D mapping applications.

  2. Data Sources: Cesium supports a wide range of data sources, including various formats like imagery, terrain, and 3D models. It can consume data from tiled services, WMS, WMTS, and other geospatial standards. OpenLayers also supports a variety of data sources, such as WMS, WMTS, GeoJSON, and KML, but its focus is mainly on traditional web mapping services.

  3. Map Projections: Cesium has built-in support for different map projections, including popular ones like Web Mercator, Geographic, and Spherical Mercator. It provides tools to project data onto these different coordinate systems. OpenLayers also supports multiple map projections, and it includes a more extensive collection of projection definitions.

  4. Rendering Engine: Cesium uses WebGL, a web graphics library that allows for hardware acceleration and rendering of 3D graphics directly in the browser. This enables Cesium to deliver high-performance 3D map visualizations. OpenLayers, on the other hand, uses a combination of HTML5 canvas and SVG for rendering, which is suitable for 2D maps but not as powerful as WebGL.

  5. Community and Documentation: Cesium has a growing community and offers extensive documentation, including detailed guides, tutorials, and examples. It also provides paid support options for commercial users. OpenLayers has a long-established community and a wealth of documentation, including API references, examples, and user guides. It has been around for a longer time and has a more extensive user base.

  6. Integration with Other Libraries: Both Cesium and OpenLayers can be used alongside other JavaScript libraries and frameworks. However, OpenLayers has better integration with popular libraries like jQuery and Bootstrap, as it provides dedicated plugins and modules for seamless integration. Cesium also supports integration with other libraries, but the level of integration may require more custom development.


In summary, Cesium is primarily focused on creating 3D map visualizations with advanced capabilities, while OpenLayers is better suited for traditional 2D mapping applications. Cesium supports a wider range of data sources, has better 3D rendering capabilities through WebGL, and offers more extensive community support. OpenLayers, on the other hand, has better integration with other popular JavaScript libraries, making it more suitable for integration into existing web development projects.

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Pros of Cesium
Pros of OpenLayers
  • 1
    Fully interactive 3D and can dynamically switch to 2D.
  • 15
  • 11
  • 8
    Open Source
  • 7
    Incredibly comprehensive, excellent support
  • 4
  • 4
    Strong community
  • 4
    Choice of map providers
  • 3
    Low Level API
  • 1

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What is Cesium?

it is used to create the leading web-based globe and map for visualizing dynamic data. We strive for the best possible performance, precision, visual quality, ease of use, platform support, and content.

What is OpenLayers?

An opensource javascript library to load, display and render maps from multiple sources on web pages.

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What companies use Cesium?
What companies use OpenLayers?
See which teams inside your own company are using Cesium or OpenLayers.
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What tools integrate with Cesium?
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