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Use Maps in Lite mode (support.google.com)
136 points by richardboegli 318 days ago | hide | past | web | 116 comments | favorite

If there is one thing Google services seem to have in common, it is that they're burdened with sluggish javascript. Whether it is Google Maps, Google Groups, Google Image browser (in Image search), all of them like to spike the CPU at 100% for a while doing their thing, leaving the user staring at a frozen tab or window. Having been around a bit I remember where Google Groups came from, it used to be called Deja News. Back in the day I made a 2-pane browser for reading news groups, functionally comparable to what Google Groups does nowadays with one big difference: it loaded instantaneously and was fast. Mind, this was in the time where we counted ourselves lucky with our 4 Mbit fixed line and our 400 MHz Pentium II developer machines, using Netscape 4.x on a Linux 2.x kernel with Afterstep or FvWM (or olvwm for Sun-OS aficionados).

While these 'modern' services might be more flexible with their largely client-generated UI, I feel that this comes at too high a price. This problem is not just limited to Google services, other sites and services are similarly hampered. Thing is, I'd have expected better performance from Google.

> with one big difference: it loaded instantaneously and was fast

When things were HTML, like most things "back in the days", thing were fast. Frames, maybe iframes, and ready-to-consume HTML.

Does Squirrelmail rings a bell? It was one of the earliest popular webmails in PHP, and it run every machines I accessed internet with, including 96MB RAM Pentium I MMX laptop.

The current trend of outsourcing rendering to the client is not really a gain for anyone: the server side still does a lot of arranging and magic on that data which is served, while it could just generate HTML. Serve the already done HTML, replace the parts in the DOM like we did in the beginning of the AJAX days, and things would be much faster.

Out of curiosity, I installed a lesser known browser, Dillo. It's dumb: it can parse a minimal amount of CSS and probably HTML ~4; the rest, it drops. And voilá: the internet - well, the ones that are still serving a viable miminum HTML without JS - became instant. Using the word "fast" would be an understatement.

We need to go back to the roots, otherwise we're using a lot of CPUs as heaters.

I feel like this is a situation where developers are looking back to an internet that doesn't exist anymore. In 2002, there were 665 million internet users, now there are 3.4 billion and growing [http://www.internetlivestats.com/internet-users/].

If we were still stuck with terrible standards implementations and lack of processing power, I would side with the "Lets do everything on the server again!" argument, but we're not. For most use cases only privileged information has the requirement of server processing, and if thats not a requirement, why not take advantage of the device requesting the service?

Set aside the 5 second delay user experience annoyance, and realize that as a business there is no way to scale your services profitably without offloading as much work as possible to the web client.

> In 2002, there were 665 million internet users, now there are 3.4 billion and growing

A significant part of that 3.4 billion are on mobile, which is even deeper prone to the overused JS problem.

> terrible standards implementations

Ah, you mean IE6. In it's prime time, it was a brilliant browser, standards or not; it was a necessary evil to forcefully move things ahead. It has XHR, webfonts, a gazillion things none of the browsers had yet. It indeed stuck around for too long, but this was not the case in it's initial state.

> lack of processing power

https://hackernoon.com/10-things-i-learned-making-the-fastes... -> Read the paragraph "#2 Do mobile first. Like, really do it." We do lack processing power on mobile, so for that 2-3billion people, who are using mobile _only_ or mobile first, we need economical solutions.

> why not take advantage of the device requesting the service?

Because you can't assume the device is powerful enough to do so. Why do you think https://mbasic.facebook.com still exists?

> Set aside the 5 second delay user experience annoyance

You go against one of the initial hard rules of the web with that. I wonder if is the importance of speed had changed, but judging by the grouchy voices all around, it did not. People only keep using the services because they deliberately made it hard to leave or because they learned tactics from Microsoft and are constantly eliminating competitors.

> and realize that as a business there is no way to scale your services profitably without offloading as much work as possible to the web client.

Now, this is complete nonsense; there is no money you save there. How is generating all those React apps, shuffling all that data is better then generating HTML? :)

Of course, there are exceptions, there are always exceptions, but most of the things would not need mammoth sized invisible JSONs to be parsed in the browser while the pre-rendered HTML could be served and manipulated only when needed.

I think your misunderstanding surrounds the amount of processing required to render HTML on the server, if you believe that rendering JSON is just as expensive, I'm open to the discussion but I don't agree.

Usually these applications are compiled once, and delivered by CDN. That's a huge savings.

Also I'm not saying the speed of Google Maps in your browser is acceptable, but with tools like Webpack Chunking, you can optimize even the initial load to nothing. This is a software architecture problem, not a javascript problem.

Maybe you're right, but I'm interested on your opinion about the rest of my answer, such as mobile browser capacities.

There is no way you'd want to leak even more information about the machine such as RAM and CPU power, I feel like it's already dangerously easy to de-anonymize users across websites simply using what's provided in headers and described in the "navigator" global.

So with that in mind, I believe that Google Maps is purposefully not optimized for most mobile clients. It's designed as a fallback if you don't install the app (which they are deeply incentivized to peddle).

I also think other web applications that get to the point of ~5 seconds of loadtime need to rethink their compiling strategy (if at all possible). I mentioned webpack before, but spreading out the work of large payloads is a well documented issue with many different solutions. If it's the CPUs fault, you should be using Web Workers.

My original point stands though, processing on the client is free, scalable and an effective solution even considering the harm it could inflict on UX, and those harms can be mitigated.

   Read the paragraph "#2 Do mobile first. Like, really do it."
   We do lack processing power on mobile, so for that
   2-3billion people, who are using mobile _only_ or
   mobile first, we need economical solutions.
Or use an older, 'underpowered' (by modern standards) machine for development, like I do. A Thinkpad T42p will give you a 1600x1200 screen, one of the best mobile keyboards available, 5-6 hours of autonomy with an extended battery and... the awesome power of a 1.8 GHz Pentium M... well, not so awesome maybe but if it works on that machine it flies on anything more up to date.

> And voilá: the internet - well, the ones that are still serving a viable miminum HTML without JS - became instant.

I've been using umatrix for this effect. I have some sites that unfortunately I need to use JS on. Sure, some sites fail to the point of not even working, but overall, I find sites faster, more user friendly, and more responsive than pre-umatrix.

The problem is that less and less websites support JS-less browsing, even though in many (if not most) cases it's completely unnecessary, i.e. what I need from the website (mostly: reading text) could be accomplished just by HTML and JS.

Dillo, yes. I did quite a bit of development for the previous, GTK-based version. I added tabs, frames, a simple command language and several other features which I distributed as a patch set due to the fact that the core developers were somewhat antagonistic against external developers [1]. I kept up with this for more than a year but finally gave up when the Dillo project went dormant due to a failed fund drive. Eventually the project got going again around a new code base built on FLTK.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk%3ADillo#Frames.2C_Tabs.2C...

I used to host SquirrelMail on my little $10/month personal server. My users (OK, friends and relatives) were quite happy with it!

There's a lot broken with the recent model of browsing, essentially, applications rather than content.

And I presume Google Maps works great in Dillo?

No, it absolutely doesn't. However there were maps before Google Maps, not even bad ones. The greatness of Google Maps: a, satellite images; b, near-live traffic data; c, geotagged images. Oh, wait, the third is gone, and the second is not thanks to Google but to a startup they bought ;)

Google Keep has one of the worst start-up time delay's I've ever experienced on a web app - which is kind of terrible for note taking.

I really have very modest keeps - 25 maybe? The startup and idling Javascript requirements of keep are insane.

Youtube also does this.. the interface is frozen for me on page navigation for around 2-5 seconds before I can start interacting.

This is why I always use `mpv https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=...` instead of clicking on Youtube links. It bypasses all the Javascript and plays the raw video stream. (youtube-dl needs to be installed.)

See also the awesome youtube-dl script: https://rg3.github.io/youtube-dl/ - especially useful for videos you plan to watch more than once. It also handles far more than just youtube, despite the name.

And for even more video services with an emphasis on live and one-time streams, see http://docs.livestreamer.io/

Livestreamer is discontinued. I suggest people try https://github.com/streamlink/streamlink

Does youtube-dl get the ad-free videos for YouTube Red subscribers?

I have never seen any ad on youtube; are they really integrated into the video itself ? from the fact that I never saw any either in the browser (with ublock origin) or through youtube-dl, I kinda just assumed they were distinct videos played by the JS player beforehand - and thus easy to bypass - and not an integral part of the main video file.

Anyway, to answer your question: youtube-dl can perform the page fetching and the download in the context of an authenticated user (for example for age-limited videos), so I assume that any advantages associated with a youtube account would most likely work with it.

I think in at least some cases they are integrated, because I use ublock origin as well and I did see at least some ads before I got YouTube Red. I could be wrong but that's my impression.

Hmm, you could well be right and I simply didn't watch the right videos.

It just doesn't download the ad at all. You can specifically tell it to try to download the ad, but just don't do that and you get ad-free, no matter if you have YouTube Red or not.

That's your ad-blocker. YouTube has started pausing playback for the 12-30 seconds while the ad plays (even if blocked), so you see a black screen.

So THATS why all videos appear to freeze up for me? Been driving me crazy trying to figure out why.

I had the same problem...Luckily it's easy to fix. Disable your ad blocker and refresh your video with ads until you get the one that is a survey. Once you finish the survey you can enable your ad blocker and things will be normal again.

Since my reason for running a blocker is to prevent an ad-delivered malware infection -- I think I'll stick with the black screens, as annoying as they are.

Playback is okay. Its the homepage and subscription pages that are freezing up.

DejaNews was great. It may be the first and canonical example of a service being ruined after it was acquired.

Good luck making Google Maps without JavaScript.

I use earlyoom to prevent the godawful slowdown that comes with running low on memory, and I've found that it aggressively kills Gmail. There are times I've actually had to turn earlyoom off in order to read my mail, even.

Google Maps is the best for businesses, but the site is extremely slow (lite mode or no) and, at least in the Netherlands, they're behind with road data. When I want a map I use osm.org; when I want aerial I use bing.com/maps; and when I need opening hours or find the nearest restaurant I reluctantly open Google Maps.

As another Dutch guy I do not agree with you. My personal experience is that Google Maps has always been the fastest to update their map.

Well I know instances of both, but a recent example was the opening of the A2 tunnel in Maastricht. I think Google got it by now, but OSM had it overnight (like 9am when it opened 8pm the previous evening). I myself thought of it Saturday morning after it opened on Thursday evening, but the mapping job was already done. Plus, OSM can contain roads currently under construction, so it's a simple matter of removing the construction tag, removing the old roads and connecting the new one(s). Or if you are a user and not a mapper, you can still see where the road will be.

You should better use conditional tags that allows those roads getting (in)valid automatically with the time http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Conditional_restrictions

Interesting--here in Houston I stopped using Google Maps long ago when I want to look up a business's hours. In fact, I had already stopped using it when Citysearch was popular, but I don't use that anymore either. Google Maps often has out-of-date data whereas Yelp always feels current.

I agree. What it comes down to I think, is how easy it is to contribute information on Yelp. Even when the posted hours are wrong or not present, I'll happily fix or add them. It's a huge competitive advantage for Yelp that they have maintained a community wiki- feel to the operation, and the emails and workflow are excellent. I'd never go through the same effort on Google because I wouldn't be sure it would ever make a difference.

Google is actually pretty good at accepting updates to things like operating hours. I've done it many times. They actually have a program (https://www.google.com/local/guides/) that encourages you to keep their maps up-to-date with correct information.

Opening hours are on the main search results now, aren't they?

My default search engine isn't Google, but I guess going to google search is quicker than going to google maps, so it's a good idea. Trying a few shops, it seems to work, thanks!

What do you use for turn-by-turn driving directions in the car?

HERE Maps is great for that, I use it exclusively, also does offline maps which is handy when we're abroad (because "data").


I feel like one word is a rudely short answer but that's it. Offline maps, open data, open source application... that's my thing.

I still prefer TomTom, don't mind to pay for all the time it saves me. It's not perfect, but it works for me.

Interesting, how does TomTom save you time over the gmaps navigation? I just tell my phone, "navigate to <business name>" and 15 seconds later it's telling me where to go. What am I missing?

You are (not) missing mobile data. Granted, Google maps now have an offline mode, but even the it is for a limited region only.

I don't have a data plan on my phone, so I use offline mode whenever I want to go somewhere. It's pretty great, I just need to remember to save the route before I leave WiFi.

The only limit to how big an area you can cover with Google offline maps is your storage. Each individual offline map is limited in size but you can download as many as you want to cover as big an area as you can fit in your phone.

That's not practical for me...not very fun saving 100+ areas of the regions and countries.

Also, from https://support.google.com/maps/answer/6291838?co=GENIE.Plat....

> Note: Downloading offline areas isn't available in some regions because of contractual limitations, language support, address formats, or other reasons.

100+ 120,000 sq km areas, huh? You visit 12 million sq km of land on a regular basis?

Yes, Google can't provide offline maps in some countries. This is true of all mapping applications, though some have better offline coverage than others, nobody has everywhere. For example HERE does not offer offline maps in Japan or South Korea.

You'll need 100s of areas if you want to minimise your local storage usage, and micro-managing that would be a PITA. GM announces 'up to 1750mb' to download the part of my country I traveled to in the last month, it's a non-starter.

Compare that to the 179mb/113mb that I need with OSMAnd/Maps.me for the whole country without fiddling. Add to that the fact that OSM's data is significantly better than Google Map's for my country (YMMV) and that there's no such thing as "offline mode not available in some regions" with OSM.

Offline maps are not available in every country / region. So even if you're visiting, you simply cannot download it in advance.

HERE Maps. I also liked HERE on Windows Phone, but the deciding factor on Android was Google Maps being broken on my phone - attempt to get it to even calculate directions and it crashes out completely. Probably fixable with a factory reset, but I have an alternative that I already liked...

HERE maps integrated in Car nav is good enough for most of my uses.

Tangential question: Maps automatically switches to Lite mode under certain browser conditions. It does so on my home Firefox machine (Dev. Edition 52.0a2, Linux, Intel HD Graphics 520), and:

- When I deactivate all my addons it still does.

- When I try a new profile it no longer does.

-> If not an addon, to my knowledge of Firefox, the cause has to be a changed Firefox preference (right?). But if right, I changed so many of them, I have no idea which one causes the behavior. Before I binary-search that, any clue what the culprit pref might be?

The support page doesn't answer this question; its only relevant snip is that "Maps will take you to Lite mode and your maps won't have 3D images if you have the following cards: [...] Intel GMA 3600", which I have (GMA3600 == HD520), but it must be outdated documentation, as Maps stays non-Lite with a fresh profile.

Do other WebGL applications work? Anything suspicious in the Graphics section of about:support?

It's probably a preference, and you might start with something obvious like webgl.disable=true. However, you might rather just try Refresh Firefox, which resets your profile while keeping your bookmarks/history/open tabs.


Yeah, other WebGL apps/demos work, and webgl.disable isn't set to true. I have quite a few modified prefs and would like to avoid a Refresh, so I'm going to just bisect across prefs. Thanks for the suggestions.

Ffffound it, it was a my general.useragent.override

Maybe it's something to do with cookies?

Nah, I have zarroo cookies set for the Maps domain (gratuitous plug to Self-Destructing Cookies: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/self-destruct... )

I wish Google would allow classic maps back :(

For some reason, here Google Maps force lite mode, no matter how hard I try to force normal mode.

Still, even in lite mode, it is incredibly slow, if it was slower it would go backwards.

And it is missing basic features that classic maps had, like latitude and longitude lines, and measurement.

I cringed when I realized bing maps were closer to classic gmaps than anything google maps today.

Actually this feels just as sluggish as the full version. Where exactly do you guys see/feel the improvement?

It looks like this lite version loads all the map imagery as images (tiles) from the server.

This compares to full version which uses Javascript to render some of the roads and symbols as some kind of vector drawing on top of less detailed map tiles.

I'd expect the Full version to require slightly less data transfer and behave better when zooming in and out rapidly. When you zoom in on a vector drawing it still looks sharp, so you just have to wait for more detailed roads to appear. Whereas in Lite mode, you'd zoom in and stare at a blury tile until the higher resolution one loaded.

I'd expect Lite to work better in a browser or network that just can't cope with a web application. Old versions of IE, weird embedded browsers in smart TVs, that sort of thing. Given what it is, I wouldn't expect it to work better.

Actually the full version uses more data, it turns out vectors take more data than jpeg tiles, at lease for urban areas.

The big differences excluding 3d features are things like

* you can rotate the map

* zoom is continuous

* the map can be customized on the fly to make it more relevant to your search. So for example a road can be highlighted for one search vs a different road highlighted for a different search. Different buildings/roads get labelled etc.

This was all covered to Google I/O when the current version of Google maps was released 4 years ago

I also find it slower. Could it be that the full version uses hardware acceleration and the lite one is all on the CPU?

The other big difference is that zooming in with the lite version takes me to aerial photos which look infinitely better than the weird 3D interpolated pictures of the full version (Earth view). I'd like to get that as a default in Earth.

Are you referring to the zoom in/out?

There is no longer tweening between the start/end zoom level, so the incremental redraw of the map feels very choppy. I suppose on a low powered device, the former could less performant. However, having experience g-map in browser on even several generations old iPhones and Android, I have to imagine this lite mode is targeted at devices even older than that!

The Lite version is much slower on my ancient Core 2 Duo E8400 w/ GeForce 210. Which I'd think would be the kind of specs this feature was aimed at.

I agree, it's slower for me too, on a recent MBP. I think the main improvement they're targeting is lower data usage rather than performance improvements but I'm still surprised at how much worse it performs. Seems like a bug to me, hopefully it will be fixed.

I find it amusing that the list of features not present in the Lite mode exactly matches the list of features I do not want.

Big market opening for a "Force Google Maps Lite Mode" Firefox plugin!

I get coordinates quite often to enter them into my Garmin GPS.

All my Garmins are collecting dust since I tried Waze a year ago.

The previous title was more informative (add "?force=lite" to the URL)

Funnily enough, a few days ago I was looking up some information and noticed I'm stuck in "lite mode" on Windows 10 with the latest dev channel of Chrome because apparently my system doesn't meet the minimum requirements. Of course, Edge works fine.

Same problem has happened with me for about a month and is still currently happening. Win 10 + Chrome Developer = stuck in Lite mode.

Isn't the Dev version essentially an alpha build?

From my personal experience, not really. The Chrome dev channel is really nothing more than a more recent build that is considered stable enough to release into the wild to those that have opted into it. Things might break but in reality they rarely do.

I won't go as far as to say I've never encountered bugs that I've noticed in the dev channel release but anything that serious is usually fixed within a matter of hours and it's happened to me like maybe twice in all the years that I've been using it.

Thanks, can anybody explain why google allowed maps to turn into a such a sluggish feature bloat?

Gotta keep adding features, otherwise what are all your team members going to do?

Performance is a feature.

The new map is basically a JS version of google earth

And yet basic things like being able to zoom in to see the name of a street aren't there. I want ~5 things from gmaps, yet it's filled with crap I personally don't use (maybe enough people want the other features that it's worth it). I wish we could go back to the days of toggle-able features for websites.

What other basic things do you think gmaps is missing?

- Better search and filters. Currently the search is quite inaccurate and the filters are terrible. I usually end up using Yelp because of this.

- Consistent UI. Sometimes back erases stuff, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes clicking on the map area on the top resizes the window, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes dragging the screen down moves me back, sometimes it doesn't. There's a lot of "I hope clicking on this does what I want!".

Currently there's a bug on my phone where GPS usually doesn't work with gmaps. If I click on the "find me now with gps" button, sometimes something happens, sometimes nothing happens.

- The ability to lock the map to keep it from spinning when trying to zoom in/out.

- The ability to restrict searches to a specific radius. If I am zoomed in on the middle of Berlin and type "Burger", don't back out and show me results outside of the area I was searching in. Additionally it would be nice to be able to type a number in.

I'm sure there's more. Every time I use gmaps it's an exercise in keeping calm because the UX is so terrible compared to what it used to be.

If I search for a store that is a franchise and have one over the corner, gmaps zooms and displays the first result that is 200km away from me. For what reason it does so ie why would I want that result -- i have no idea. I just use Google search and open map from there.

Do you have location history / your location on? Just guessing but the site (or app) doesn't have your location it could be defaulting to an old location.

the ability to "forget" a place or not have it remember them. I googled some business over a year ago and it _always_ shows up as one of the main points of interest, despite the fact I have no interest in it. my maps is now a collection of things I've looked up at one point or another but have no relevance in my life. it's bizarre and useless.

That's the typical projection of software in general

Companies that make money hire aggressively out of principle more than need. When this gets out of hand, they don't let people go. They have to find ways to keep them busy. Even if that means taking products that are already in a good state and adding useless features/redesigns.

It's the great equalizer.

i wish lite mode is the default, and you have to toggle on the lesser used features.

I'm quite happy that Google has added this feature.

Sometimes Google maps on PC is that bad I have to get phone out.

FYI the lite mode has been available since they introduced the "new" Google Maps in 2013 or so.

btw, what happened to the satelite images? I used Google Maps yesterday for the first time in months and I can only switch to some horrible, slow, and low-res 3D mode?

It's still available in the side menu. If you click hamburger in the top left > Earth > 3D On, it will switch to satellite imagery.

Thanks, I will give it a try later!

Thank you Google. Maps has been sluggish for so long. A faster lite version is very much appreciated.

I see that ?force=lite seems to enable this mode, but I have no indication of it in the hamburger menu.

Anyone else seeing this? I'm currently on the Kindle web browser, and it definitely seems faster, but I can't tell want mode it's in except by diggimg around the URL.

You should see a lightning bolt in the lower right hand corner

Weird, I get nuttin. Same in my Droid Turbo Chrome browser.

Will try on desktop Chrome.

It's interesting that it doesn't have a point of interest I added recently (on 13/Dec/2016).

I was assuming they would be using the same data as regular Maps.

Does anyone know more?

The Lite version uses image-based map tiles, wheras the "full fat" version uses the data directly. I imagine the image tiles are rebuilt at regular intervals, but not on demand.

Much better. Thanks. :)

Would have thought Google got really clever and detected if bandwidth is low to load lite version.

It's more about device/browser performance than bandwidth.

Tell that to someone with a slow connection.

I think the full version might even use less bandwidth because it renders the tiles on the client and only sends some vector data.

Excellent, this actually makes Maps usable for me. I don't have flash installed which seems to break place searching on standard Google Maps but not the Lite version.

Google Maps doesn't use Flash at all.

I do have Flash installed but it's configured as "Ask to activate". Search for places on the full Google Maps works and it doesn't ask me about Flash.

I may be mistaken about the cause. I'm on Linux and use FF without flash. Chromium with in-built flash (or flash emulation?) handles maps fine.

I'm also on Linux and Firefox. Ubuntu 16.04. I don't remember if Flash came with FF or I installed it. Anyway it doesn't run unless I OK it.

This would point at the interaction with FF being the issue, maybe disable all extensions first to make sure they are not messing up with something?

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