+3
Planned

Can we get an integrated alternative for Google Maps since it's no longer free?

ShorthornAdam 7 months ago in BLOX CMS • updated by Kevin M. Cox 2 months ago 20

College newspaper here -- we resumed publication after summer break and noticed that all of the maps on articles were not working (grayed out with a "for development use only" message).  It looks like Google Maps has gone to a paid usage model: https://cloud.google.com/maps-platform/user-guide/


I had to go through a bunch of rigmarole of setting up a Cloud platform app, enabling a tons of APIs and putting in a credit card since usage is no longer completely free. It was annoying because we don't do any cloud computing and don't need any of the datacenter-type features.  They do provide $200 of free credits every month, but there is no easy way that I could tell to stop it from charging you $20 or $200 or $2000 or $20000 if the site gets DDOS'd or has a huge traffic spike, or to set a $199.99 max usage and then have it disable itself.

Would you all please start investigating the feasibility of having integrated maps that use a free/open alternative, like maybe OpenStreetMap?  


I would like to remove my credit card from Google and not have to think about it.

 

Answer

Answer
Planned

Hi guys!

As I said previously, we are investigating the ability to provide a new mapping option, and have been investigating different providers.

Right now we are very heavily leaning toward HERE, and have chosen to start development on that. I don't want to say it is a final choice because things may be discovered or could change as we build... but as Aidian said, the free 250k transactions appears to be the most generous.

You'll have to get an API key from HERE, but a credit card is not required. 

We will also begin to look at ways to store geo-data since this service allows that, and then for future map renders we don't need to geo-code each time. Our editorial application, for example, allows you to store your geo-data.

Anyway, as I said, we are still doing dev on this - but let me know if anyone has any thoughts or input. Thanks!

Under review

We've been talking to a few people about this. Obviously it is not something we can control or could have controlled, but we are very sorry for the inconvenience.


As for alternatives, we did look into a few and there were some pretty significant disadvantages to the free alternatives, in addition to the extensive time it would take to re-develop the tons of map-related features we have presently.


That being said, this is a very valid concern. Do you (or anyone else reading this, for that matter) have any numbers you can share about what the impact is currently? Are you getting charges now? Do you have any usage data?


We were looking at possibly new ways we could reduce the API calls as well... so depending on usage, and where the usage was coming from, maybe there are things we can do to reduce usage. Any information you could share would help!


I will revisit with my team about the free alternatives as well, in case things have changed.


(Side note: I will also see if there is an API that will give you usage... maybe we could actually turn it off at a certain point. That's an interesting idea as well.)


Thanks!

Christine,

How can we disable tGoogle Maps function on our Marketplace listings? I am unable to find any settings or docs referencing where to turn off/on. Thanks!

Laura

Hi Laura, 


We have a custom property for disabling this per business coming next week but it sounds like you might prefer to shut them all off globally. Is this correct? 

Hi Phil,


Yes, that's correct. Could you advise? I have a support ticket in for our aikenstandard.com domain.

+1

Oh yeah, I know it's not any of your doing! I will have to dig into the stats and see what kind of numbers it is showing.  I confess almost total ignorance about how the various maps we use would be categorized in all of their APIs (which are static, which are dynamic, etc).  

We would still need to use Google Maps for data projects and things like that, but the vast majority of our maps are just the simple little one-pin geocode ones you can add to the side of an article from the article editor in TownNews. It might be nice to have the option to use OpenStreetMap for those kinds of uses.

Christine,

How can we disable tGoogle Maps function on our Marketplace listings? I am unable to find any settings or docs referencing where to turn off/on. Thanks!

Laura

"I will revisit with my team about the free alternatives as well, in case things have changed."

Any updates to share Christine?

We did meet with Google about this, and they are going to recommend a few alternatives to us. We are still researching other alternatives as well, but it doesn't seem like there is a really obvious replacement.

Open Street Map won't fit the bill?

The idea that we have to pay a minimum of $200 per month per site to keep

Google map is not good. At the very least, please activate the Open Street Map. After all,

the location map is one of the tools that sold us on the BLOX CMS. Now, this has adversely affected our product both on the editorial and advertising side. Stories no longer have the usual location maps, and all

our classified ads and marketplace listings have lost their valuable appeals without the maps.

Hi Donnie!

We are currently vetting alternatives, so we should see movement on this soon.

Can you clarify the minimum of $200? Have you been billed for that already?

My understanding was that there was $200 free usage per month from Google. Are you saying that you're going over that already?

Christine,

I am glad to know that you are involved in this, and very hopeful that an alternative is in the near future. My understanding was that $200 is required upfront for the first 28,000 API calls, after which we pay additional amount. Google has turned off the service, obviously because we haven't paid anything. What a flex of monopoly muscle by Google!

I'm still curious to hear why Open Street Map won't work.

It would also make a lot of sense to me for Town News to pay for the API access and place their key on all sites, taking advantage of the volume discount from Google. Routing all loads through a single account would be cheaper (in aggregate) than having each newspaper pay for their own.

We need a data vendor, a geo lookup vendor and a method of displaying the maps on the site (map tiles). Google Maps performs all of those functions. Open Street Map is only the data... so we would need someone who provides the service to query it, and then another vendor to offer map tiles (like LeafletJS). LocationIQ and MapQuest both use Open Street Map data.

Anyway, we are looking at a few different vendors and should hopefully have something available soon.

I would suggest self-hosting the map tiles generated from OSM data (use vector tiles like the cool kids are doing if you want to be snazzy), then hook up with HERE maps for the geocoding service -- 250,000 free lookups per month per customer.  Is pretty easy, scales well, and would be the cheapest option for TN and its customers.  My $0.02.


The truly frustrating thing is that I've got everything built to replace Google Maps, but figuring out the UTL templates to know how to do it is the killer.

Answer
Planned

Hi guys!

As I said previously, we are investigating the ability to provide a new mapping option, and have been investigating different providers.

Right now we are very heavily leaning toward HERE, and have chosen to start development on that. I don't want to say it is a final choice because things may be discovered or could change as we build... but as Aidian said, the free 250k transactions appears to be the most generous.

You'll have to get an API key from HERE, but a credit card is not required. 

We will also begin to look at ways to store geo-data since this service allows that, and then for future map renders we don't need to geo-code each time. Our editorial application, for example, allows you to store your geo-data.

Anyway, as I said, we are still doing dev on this - but let me know if anyone has any thoughts or input. Thanks!

Glad to here there is some progress on this, thanks for sharing the plans Christine. I think I speak for everyone when I say it can't come soon enough.

I'm gonna post this again since I'm still curious to hear the thinking:

It would also make a lot of sense to me for Town News to pay for the API access and place their key on all sites, taking advantage of the volume discount from Google. Routing all loads through a single account would be cheaper (in aggregate) than having each newspaper pay for their own.


Did y'all just decide that re-billing hassle would be too much to simply handle this all (API keys, payments, etc.) on your side as a service for Town News customers?

The problem isn't really about the billing hassle... It's just more of the issue that if the API keys are split up across all of the sites, there are many more free transactions to take advantage of. With 250k free transactions, we would very quickly cross into paid territory with one API key for all of our sites. With 250k free transactions a single site with a unique API key is much less likely to hit the point of having to be billed.

That being said, we are not removing Google Maps... you will have an option of which API key to use and can use one or the other, or even both (it's a per-URL setting). 

We do work closely with Google, so some kind of deal is not out of the question per se... but we really need to address this issue as quickly as possible, so we wanted to be able to provide alternatives.

Thanks Christine, I appreciate the details on the process/thinking.