MapQuest Developer Blog

Archives for Kumiko Yamazaki

Associate Tech Manager, Software Development

  • Open Guidance/JavaScript SDK/Aerial Tiles!? Yes, Please!

    Do you remember when the announcements of the MapQuest-OpenStreetMap (OSM) tiles and style files were a big deal? Or when you all grew ecstatic when we added routing to your OSM contributions?? Well, we're not stopping yet! We're here to confirm once again that MapQuest is taking OpenStreetMap very seriously. Announced today at Navigation Strategies USA by Randy Meech, head of engineering for local & mapping at AOL, we're officially launching: 1) The Open Guidance Service that allows you to create your own real-time, turn-by-turn navigation application based entirely on OpenStreetMap!! 2) The Open JavaScript SDK using strictly the MapQuest Open Services! And, 3) Open Aerial Tiles!

    Open Guidance Service

    A real-time, turn-by-turn navigation app!? How can this be done? Guidance, as seen in the Developer's Guide, is the beefier, bulkier brother of the Open Directions Service and contains additional raw data associated with the route. One of the key differences is that it can also return speed and intersection costs per road segment that allow real-time guidance for navigation applications to more accurately estimate the time until the next maneuver. For example, take a simple route like the following:,-121.911233&to=37.339409,-121.893904&narrativeType=text Response snippet: "GuidanceNodeCollection":[ ... {"infoCollection":["Turn left on McCarthy Boulevard", "Turn LEFT onto McCarthy Boulevard."], "turnCost":12, "maneuverType":4, "linkIds":[4]}, ... ] Referring back to the documentation, you'll note that maneuverType displays which type of maneuver action should be taken (4=turn left), turnCost displays the number of seconds it takes to transition between successive links along the route, and infoCollection provides both a text-to-speech narrative and a display-ready narrative. Keep in mind the above GuidanceNodeCollection is just a small portion of the response returned. The service can also return GuidanceLinkCollection, GuidanceExitCollection, GuidanceRoadInfoCollection, and loads of other details that help provide the means necessary to develop a navigation application.

    Open JavaScript SDK

    OpenStreetMap has already changed the face of mapping, and it continued its march on today as a potential main data source for a real-time navigation application. Because OSM is to be taken seriously, we are proud to release our very first Open SDK! This toolkit grabs the Open tiles created from OpenStreetMap and allows developers to add interactivity to their maps, generate Points of Interests, produce advanced routing between two or more points, do a Nominatim search, plus numerous other features found on To get started with your own mapping application, simply follow the Basic Map documentation, then spruce it up by adding Controls and POIs/InfoWindows. Like all of MapQuest's other Open Initiatives, an AppKey is not necessary and you'll be able to dive directly into the SDK. Identical to the Open Directions Service, the routing options for the toolkit include crowd-pleasers such as multipoint routing, ability to avoid specific road types, and my personal favorite, bike routes! Full documentation is available here. [caption id="attachment_1037" align="aligncenter" width="529" caption="Sample bike route using the new Open JavaScript SDK."][/caption]

    Open Aerial Tiles

    As if the above announcements aren't enough, we're also releasing a new open tileset combining the best of the freely available satellite imagery and aerial photography! The data thus far has mostly been collected from places such as the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the National Agriculture Imagery Program. [caption id="attachment_1081" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Flatiron Building in NYC on Open Aerial Tiles."][/caption] It currently offers global imagery at a 30-meter resolution and up to 1-meter for the United States. The service itself is still very much in its early stages as we continue to augment the initial dataset with more and improved data. However, if you'd like to begin using the Open Aerial Tiles now or in the early stages, the process is very similar to using OpenStreetMap tiles. The only change needed would be the tile URLs. OpenStreetMap Tile URL: MapQuest-OSM Tile URL: MapQuest-Open Aerial Tiles URL: Whew! Amazingly, that's all we have for now and there are no more new announcements for the day. We hope you take advantage of some of the aforementioned Open Services and share with us what you've been developing. Questions and feedback are always welcomed on the Open Forums as well as on Twitter @MapQuestTech.
  • New Community Accounts for All!

    Big news today as we introduce our new Community Accounts! So what are they, you ask? This new account replaces the current Free and Developer accounts with access to the best of both worlds. Current users have automatically been upgraded. Listed below are a few of these advantages. Or if you care to, please visit the new Terms of Service page. I know - who reads them? Certainly not developers!? I'll summarize here but I'll also feel better knowing you know where to go should you need more information.

    Better Geocoding

    All users now have access to Address Point Geocoding (APG) data. This data has added over 83 million addresses in the U.S. to our already extensive geocoding database and allows for more accurate placements of locations and addresses. These geocode results return a quality code of P1 for our SDKs v6.0 and above, and a quality code of L1 for v5.* and older with a coverage name "ntus_strpt". If some of these response values look gibberish to you, don't worry. Just refer to our Geocode Quality Code documentation for more details.

    Internal & Commercial Use

    For many developers, any kind of usage limitation or restriction can be the sole reason that prevents them from using a certain product. In an effort to reduce our own limitations, all users will now have the ability to use their AppKey in BOTH an internal and a production commercial application. A separate key is no longer necessary for this purpose. Also, if you wish to use the MapQuest Services in conjunction with any commercial application that isn't publicly available without charge, please obtain permission first by contacting with a description of your application and your intended distribution channels. Permission is not necessary for use with our Open Services.

    Open Initiatives

    So you may be wondering how this affects our Open Services. Well, absolutely nothing has changed here! Neither a community account nor an AppKey is required for the use of our OpenStreetMap tiles, Nominatim Search, Open Directions, or Open Elevation. However, we encourage developers to at least sign up for an account and take advantage of the resources found on the Open Forums and to ask questions and interact with others. With just a few of the advantages described above, we hope you now have an understanding of what Community Accounts are all about and why we're excited to have finally released this for everyone. In case you haven't noticed, we're also constantly adding new features and services so be sure to check the MapQuest Developer Network often to get the most out of your Community Accounts!
  • Performance Boosts and DevNet Updates

    Performance Boosts

    We recently spent some time doing a bunch of back-end cleanup by removing old code, dead code, defunct code, and what have you. In other words, critical updates that never receive any love! These updates will mostly only affect the Open Directions Service and Open Elevation Service but has led to performance increases for the said services. Also, while the previous restriction to the Open Elevation Service has not been entirely lifted, we did increase the maximum allowed distance to 250 miles (~400 kilometers). You can still make multiple calls to the service however, if you wish to request elevation for a longer route. [caption id="attachment_831" align="alignright" width="180" caption="Newly restructured sidebar"][/caption]

    Developer Network Updates

    One of the main challenges users have had with the MapQuest Developer Network was with navigation. You may have heard about our recent launches of Potlatch 2 or the TIGER Edited Map Viewer, but have had difficulties finding it. Aside from linking it here on our Developer Blog, many of our products and services for our Open Initiatives especially, had remained buried several links deep. This is no longer the case. We've restructured the menu for easier, more intuitive navigation, and added direct links to some of our most popular products on the main page. There's also now a separate OpenStreetMap Tools & Guides section which acts as a one-stop shop for helping both beginners and advanced users with contributing and improving OSM. If you haven't already done so, be sure to check out the Beginner's Guide to OpenStreetMap and the Potlatch 2 Primer. Pass it along to your friends and get them involved (and addicted)!
  • Newest Member of the Open Initiatives: Open Elevation Service

    Maybe you've already heard, but we have yet another major announcement for our Open Initiatives project! The Open Elevation Service now joins the Open Directions Service and Nominatim Search Service as services that are based entirely on open data! I've already talked a bit about the Elevation Service in the past (here and here) and below is another example of an elevation chart and a short summary of the service in case you've forgotten or (gasp!) missed my previous posts: [caption id="attachment_805" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Elevation chart from Vancouver, CN to Seattle, WA"][/caption]
    • Generates an elevation chart in a customizable size
    • Provides elevation profile information (elevation and distance) in JSON or XML formats
    • Distance values returned in miles or kilometers
    • Shape format represented as float pairs or compressed path string with 5 and 6 digits of precision
    So where is the data coming from? The Open Elevation Service is powered by the SRTM V2 data ("finished" version). SRTM (Shuttle Radar Topography Mission) is the international project headed by NASA that helped capture high-resolution topographic data of the Earth. In the U.S., data resolution is approximately 30 meters and 90 meters for the rest of the world. If you need more information, you know where to go - the Developer's Guide! We hope you enjoy the new Open Elevation Service as we continue to roll out new features. As always, go ahead and combine Elevation with the Open Directions Service or Nominatim for the truly Open Experience! Just remember they are all still in Beta and providing feedback can only help improve these services. email:
  • It's Here - Bicycle Routes Using OpenStreetMap Data!

    We're pleased to announce our latest service for the MapQuest Open Initiatives project: Bike Routes! Temperatures are dropping but fair weather cyclists, take your bikes out and enjoy the beautiful cool crisp autumn air! It is never too late in the season to go biking. If you're already familiar with the Open Directions Service, then you'll know that this service is based entirely on OpenStreetMap data. You'll also find that adding bike routes to your directions search is extremely easy to implement. For example, if you were searching for directions from Thoreau Middle School in Vienna, VA, to Idylwood Park in Falls Church, VA, you would say:,-77.241899&to=38.89162,-77.211376&routeType=shortest Simply change routeType=shortest to routeType=bicycle.,-77.241899&to=38.89162,-77.211376&routeType=bicycle Here's a comparison of the results for the same route. Note the difference as the bike route option attempts to provide a more bike friendly route by avoiding major roads and even jumps on the W&OD Trail, a popular paved multi-use trail in Northern Virginia! [caption id="attachment_780" align="aligncenter" width="478" caption="Directions using routeType=shortest. "][/caption] [caption id="attachment_781" align="aligncenter" width="583" caption="Directions using routeType=bicycle."][/caption] If you're asking yourself, "what does MapQuest mean when they claim a more bike friendly route?" Well, we will route you on paths that are not vehicle accessible and also try to not let you do anything illegal, like riding on an interstate : ) On a more serious note, the following list provides some specific rules that are applied to bike routes:
    • Avoids roads where bicycle access in OpenStreetMap is set to false
    • Avoids all limited access highways
    • Favors bike specific paths (road segments that have bicycle access only - no auto or pedestrian)
    • Favors walkways with no auto access
    • Applies various weights to roads based on the maxspeed tag (ex. favors routes where maxspeed <= 30 mph)
    [caption id="attachment_783" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Elevation chart combining the Bike Routes with the Open Elevation Service."][/caption] Continuing with the Open theme, bike routes can also be combined with the Open Elevation Service. Remember, it's still in Beta and we'd appreciate it if you can limit the routes to less than 200 miles. (I know, we apologize - you were looking forward to biking over 200 miles tomorrow, weren't you?) Similar to all our other Open Services, no AppKey is necessary! What you will need, however, is a collection of lat/longs along its route to produce the elevation chart. Fortunately the above Open Directions request can provide the coordinates for us. With this info in hand, we can request Elevation with the following: The elevation chart is heavily dependent on the generalize parameter for the Open Directions Service. As you might expect, the higher the generalization, the more simplified the elevation chart becomes. Check out the Developer's Guide to read more about the generalize parameter and shape simplifications under Advanced Routing Options and Parameters. And definitely stay tuned for more details regarding the Open Elevation Service!