Aug 24, 2010

MapQuest Opens Tiles and Style; Enables Rapid Data Updates

When we launched the open.mapquest.co.uk during the State of the Map conference, we received some immediate feedback that we’ve already taken steps to address.  I figured we’ve now made enough updates to warrant blog post – so here goes:

Will we add footpaths & cycle paths to the MQ style?

Done!  Our biggest piece of feedback on the map style was the missing footpaths & bicycle paths.  We’re now picking those tags up for styling. Tiles are updated with the new style and several other changes have been made too as we continue to refine the style.

Will we open-source the style files?

Why, yes! If you are interested in using our map style in your application, we’ve uploaded the style files to GitHub and released it under the MIT License.   As we’ve updated & improved the style, we’ve uploaded the changes to Github.

Follow this link to find the repository for our map style files.

Can you use MapQuest tiles in your application?

Yes! Please feel free to do so!  And feel free to let us know at open@mapquest.com. we love it when people use our stuff.

Our MapQuest tiles are available for use for free under the following conditions:

  • OpenStreetMap must be given credit for the data – see this section of their legal FAQ for details.
  • Please place “tiles courtesy of MapQuest” on your page, or in the copyright area of the map and please link the word “MapQuest” to http://open.mapquest.co.uk or http://www.mapquest.com.
  • If your application will get heavy usage (currently defined as more than 4,000 tiles per second) please let us know by sending us an email at open@mapquest.com. Please include the estimate of your expected usage so that we will be aware and accommodate the extra traffic.
  • If there will be an announcement (ex – a press release or a corporate announcement) please contact MapQuest at open@mapquest.com to let us know of the good news and any expected jumps in map tile usage.
  • Usage of these tiles are at your own risk.
  • Usage of these tiles are governed by paragraph 9, section (a) of the MapQuest Developer Network Terms of Use.

How do you use the MapQuest-hosted map tiles?

You can learn more about how to use OpenStreetMap tiles in general, here on the OpenStreetMap wiki.  Once you know how OSM tiles work, then it is very straightforward to use.

The tile URLs are very similar to regular OSM tiles, with only the front of the URL being different.

OpenStreetMap tile URL http://a.tile.openstreetmap.org/8/126/87.png

MapQuest tile URL http://otile1.mqcdn.com/tiles/1.0.0/osm/8/126/87.png

Just replace the “http://a.tile.openstreetmap.org” bit with “http://otile1.mqcdn.com/tiles/1.0.0/osm.”

OSM tile

OSM tile: http://a.tile.openstreetmap.org/8/126/87.png

MapQuest tile: http://otile1.mqcdn.com/tiles/1.0.0/osm/8/126/87.png

MapQuest tile: http://otile1.mqcdn.com/tiles/1.0.0/osm/8/126/87.png

Note: There are 4 subdomains set up for the MapQuest-hosted tiles: otile1 to otile4.  All subdomains point to the same CDN. Just like with OSM’s a.tile to c.tile subdomains, the MapQuest subdomains are provided to work around browser limitations on the number of simultaneous HTTP connections to each “host”. Browser-based applications can request multiple map tiles from multiple subdomains faster than requesting map tiles from just one subdomain.

More information can be found on the wiki at OpenStreetMap.org and here on the wiki page for MapQuest.

When do we update our data?

Well, when we were at the conference, it was a static load.  Getting automated updates in place was our top priority when we returned.  I am happy to say that we now have the map tiles updating within approximately 15 minutes of any edits to the data being made, and the search data updating within 2 hours to a day, depending on traffic load at the time.  We’re still working on getting routing data updated automatically (our first goal is daily updates) but I understand we are periodically refreshing it manually while we build that process.

More news to follow soon.

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