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Farewell, Google Maps (inderapotheke.de)
1747 points by ScottWRobinson on July 19, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 527 comments

"Sudden change of policy by Google, which is directed specifically at startups (as smaller web sites should largely remain below even the new lower thresholds), is surely an unpleasant surprise for us and does not create much trust in Google as a vendor. In the future we would therefore keep our distance from Google Cloud and avoid deep integration with any Google services on which it can pull a similar trick. For example we would be wary on taking free Google Analytics for granted."

I think this is one of the most important points in the article - the way they handle these pricing changes destroys trust in Google's other business offerings. How can people use Google products and services as a core piece of their infrastructure when they're willing to bump their prices >10x with only a few months of notice? That could literally be a business-ending event, depending on how core that service is to the business.

In the case of maps, there weren't many great alternatives for a long time, due to Google sucking all the oxygen/profit potential out of the field with their excellent free offerings. Fortunately, their last (sudden) price bump seems to have allowed the creation of some good alternatives.

While I've experienced the frustration of having a formerly free service develop paid tiers (and policies that put me in those tiers), of all the changes a software service can make, this is the one that frustrates me the least, or at any rate less than:

* shutting down the service entirely because the user base never grew into customers who actually valued the service

* changing your terms of service to forbid an activity that was previously allowed, because someone discovered a use that messed up the price points and the service owners would rather forbid that than offer a reasonable price point allowing it

* moving to opaquely metered service potentially with apparently arbitrary levels of financial exposure to the client

A big price bump with a few months notice is painful (and I'm glad it's bringing competition), but it tells me they're thinking seriously about how to sustain/develop the product and lets both them and me explore the real value of the service.

When it comes to Google, I'm more worried that they might just arbitrarily mothball something on a management roadmap whim.

> A big price bump with a few months notice is painful (and I'm glad it's bringing competition), but it tells me they're thinking seriously about how to sustain/develop the product and lets both them and me explore the real value of the service.

It tells me they're trying to minimize the number of users (which reduces their costs) by raising the price while still making it profitable. They raise prices rapidly to see how many people jump ship, and when your revenue begins to decline you've gone a bit too far.

Of course, they've done it very quickly, so they've likely not allowed enough time for the competition to step in or all their customers to abandon your now-expensive product.

> It tells me they're trying to minimize the number of users (which reduces their costs) by raising the price while still making it profitable.

Is the marginal cost of serving extra users really a big part of Google's costs? Bandwidth is cheap; I would have expected that building and updating the map data was the expensive part.

After all, they've long done away with the tile servers of the past and the giant render farms to make the millions of tiles at 20 different zoom levels to cover the earth. Now it's in browser rendered vector graphics.

Unless the vector information is getting much more expensive (shouldn't be, they own Waze and GMaps mobile products to make their own maps from user data), the cost of running GMaps should be going down on a per user bases, not up.

Maybe they expect a big increase in the cost of imagery acquisition (from what I was able to glean they had a deal for a certain fixed price for a certain period, which might be coming to an end - https://spacenews.com/planet-confirms-google-stake-as-terra-...).

Cost doesn't set price. Value sets price

I'm not concerned about bandwidth costs. I'm concerned about support costs. People who use an API have an annoying habit of calling and submitting support tickets for that API.

>A big price bump with a few months notice is painful (and I'm glad it's bringing competition), but it tells me they're thinking seriously about how to sustain/develop the product and lets both them and me explore the real value of the service.

See this is the important thing. Sustainable. People and companies use these free services that take quite a bit of work to maintain and then when the company decides it needs to stop hemorrhaging money they start charging, often a fairly modest fee, and people lose their damn minds "ermagerd, you're evil, I need this, you can't expect me to pay!". The simple fact that adding a price, or increasing the price, creates such an outrage is indicative, more oft than not, that it is a fair move because the service or good has obvious value to the user.

People lost their damn minds when Netflix increased prices a year or two ago and I'm like "erm, I get way more value out of this than cable and it's a tenth the price, shut up".

>When it comes to Google, I'm more worried that they might just arbitrarily mothball something on a management roadmap whim.

I've been a Project Fi user for 2 and a half years now. This has been my worry every, single, day. Especially since they still owe me like 800$ in statement credits ha.

> People lost their damn minds when Netflix increased prices a year or two ago and I'm like "erm, I get way more value out of this than cable and it's a tenth the price, shut up".

For your analogy to work you would need to say you are content with Netflix raising their prices >10x (no longer a 10th of cable) because that is what Google just did with their pricing.

Most people I know who stream (ok all people I know) get way more value out of streaming than cable. What is your line on fair pricing for streaming compared to cable, as the service has obvious value to the user?

I don't think anyone, here of all places, would suggest a product requiring engineers and infrastructure be free for commercial use and that the company shouldn't recoup costs.

The good news is, like streaming services, there is competition and pricing will work itself out in the market (assuming no collusion :P)

>For your analogy to work you would need to say you are content with Netflix raising their prices >10x (no longer a 10th of cable) because that is what Google just did with their pricing.

Netflix raised their prices what they felt they needed to. Google raised their prices what they felt they needed to.

If people don't like it they're more than welcome to go to the competition... which in both cases generally has inferior product.

It looks like this specific change almost entirely inconveniences businesses and not private individuals. They're allowing 28k FREE requests a month which is still beyond generous. That's enough for a small entity to develop a service or product around the service and not only get it working but develop a decent alpha, or extremely modest beta, base of users. Then, just like other businesses, you get to put on your big boy pants and accept the cost of doing business.

Does the power company hand out free power?

Does the water company hand out free water?

Does the phone company let you have free calls?

No. So Google is still allowing a more than fair FREE level of commercial usage and now want to actually monetize their product. If it's adding value to your business, paying the new rates is a cost of doing business. Build it into your pricing, adjust your budget. This is the real world, not Narnia.

I imagine in the most common cases the application is effectively advertising "here are our locations, come to one" and by the point of showing the map you should have already removed a significant number of non-conversions making it VERY fair pricing.

In instances where you are using it to actually build a product around, it's still likely orders of magnitude cheaper than buying, and maintaining, map data yourself. In fact it wouldn't surprise me if one year's cost is only a few percent of what it would cost you to initially buy all of the data and develop software for navigating and hosting it.

People allow free, and cheap, things to make them feel entitled. It's easy to do, it really is, but it's something people need to be more mindful of before freaking out.

All I read in that blog post is "HOW DARE GOOGLE! They want us to pay for a service we use! Pity us! Shame Google for wanting to not operate at a loss! How dare they! How. Dare. They!"

Your analogies make no sense.

We’re talking of Google Maps the platform and its B2B offering whereas Netflix, cable and phone companies are services for consumers with fixed and reasonable consumer-level monthly subscriptions.

If you haven’t built an app on top of Google Maps, then you pretty much have no idea how much it costs and have zero valuable input you can give.

Also, this isn’t the first time Google is doing this bait and switch. They did it before with App Engine as well, first fooling early adopters in order to gather popularity and then raising prices enough that it made plenty of startups to move off the platform.

Along with other blunders in their products, it makes one wonder how anyone can trust any of their offerings long term.

Too bad the US has lost its anti-trust teeth btw, because what Google is doing is to subsidize its offerings until they get popular, effectively using their monopoly to gain popularity in other markets, thus hurting their competition unfairly.

>Also, this isn’t the first time Google is doing this bait and switch.

It isn't a bait and switch. It's introductory pricing. They attracted developers and businesses to a product people essentially weren't using, they let people work with it at or near a loss and now that they have a customer base they are trying to make it profitable.

Yes, they'll lose some of their users that want a free ride. They'll also retain many users that will happily pay under the new pricing scheme because they recognize the value add and find it to be a worthy business expense.

It's no different than companies like MailChimp offering free-for-so-many-subscriber pricing and then requiring you to pay once you reach a threshold they've determined makes you a billable customer. Or a company like Evernote allowing you to save so much data (what a map tile is) and use so many devices a month for free before requiring you to subscribe at one of the paid tiers. Or a company like Pushbullet allowing you to mirror so many SMS messages a month before charging.

If you can't easily handle the pricing change, then you are probably wasting your time using it in the first place and need to discontinue using maps anyway or reassess your own business model.

You seem to have read an entirely different story. The customer Google is losing here is clearly willing to pay, not expecting a free ride.

And there is absolutely no similarity between your MailChimp example and what Google has done in this case. The customer didn't complain about costs rising as the number of users starts to exceed an existing threshold.

That said, I wouldn't be so quick to call for the regulator. All businesses have a responsibility to select suppliers carefully and manage their dependency on any one of them. It appears to me that the value of contracts has been forgotten.

>You seem to have read an entirely different story. The customer Google is losing here is clearly willing to pay, not expecting a free ride.

Yet they spend the entire post whining about it.

The post that I have read complains about an extreme and sudden change in Google's pricing structure and then goes on to compare alternatives for most of post, all of which are non-free.

They also say "Of course, we always knew that as we grew larger, there would be cost to using Google Maps."

> A big price bump with a few months notice is painful (and I'm glad it's bringing competition), but it tells me they're thinking seriously about how to sustain/develop the product and lets both them and me explore the real value of the service.

This is a bit of “thank you sir may I have another”. 10x price increases? It’s not sustainable? This is just a money grab - they’re not going to give a roadmap for how in the future google maps will be worth 10x the value - it seems to me more of a statement from Google that they have no real competition in the space.

Did you to read the article which mentions all the competitors that are available?

The simple existence of competitors in a market segment is not proof that there is no monopoly. We wouldn't say for example that there are realistic copetitors in the web search space or in the desktop OS space - maps is similar to both of these sitations. (Now I realise that some people like to argue the toss about whether search and desktop OS are monopolies and to that I have no comment)

It's helpful to think about market share per "competitor", not number of competitors:

"However, from a regulatory view, monopoly power exists when a single firm controls 25% or more of a particular market. For example, De Beers is known to have a monopoly in the diamond industry."


The search space has bing and to a lesser extent duckduckgo

The wording was a bit confusing, but I think the GP meant that Google _thinks_ they have no competition so can get away with sudden price gouging.

Since API's aren't standardized and conversion from one product to another likely requires development work and probably impacts your usage in some way even then - the barriers to switching are high enough that the availability of alternative maps still doesn't represent a whole lot of competition.

A good competitor can make a drop in replacement possible by aligning their api with that of google's

look how good it went for Microsoft's competitors trying to build a Win32-compatible OS....

Look what Linus and Stallman made to replace UNIX.

What? Like WINE you mean? ;-)

This argument is symmetric, it implies all other map providers (who are competitors of google maps and of each other) also have no competitors.

Sure, typically yes. It's not necessary - interoperable APIs exist, and for underdogs they're even attractive as a selling point - but market leaders tend not to play by those rules.

This is why Google's generic services should be commoditized as quickly as possible.

I agree, but is it _that_ easy? Not like no one has tried

Which ones aren't?

Jacking up the price so far that it becomes prohibitive to actually use, on short notice, isn't much different from shutting it down, is it? In both cases you suddenly can't use the service anymore.

Thought the same, there are not many use cases which will be still profitable after this price increase.

Counterpoint: if these startups need a giant subsidized mapping product for free or else they aren't profitable, they weren't ever profitable.

I mean, there's a real cry-me-a-river aspect here. No one has a Google-granted fundamental right to mapping. It's a free product Google released to drive traffic to their own offerings, and which they happen to make available for free for a lot of purposes.

As it turns out, yeah, there's a lot of value we as a society can derive from low cost pervasive mapping. So let's find a way to share the cost and not just whine about Google, no?

The problem isn’t that Google wants to charge for a service. The issue is that they offered it for years for free or below cost effectively price gouging any competition. Now, with no alternatives they jack up the price. Classic monopolistic and anticompetitive behaviour.

When I was a teenage I was told that thats how drug dealers operated - get you hooked on something for free, then ramp up the price once you are hooked.

Never heard of any drug dealer that did that in my adult life, but I do see a lot of large corporations using that business model.

Essentially the Google Reader effect, right? Where killing their offering basically killed the entire medium.

I'm always so confused by this. I switched to Feedly the day Reader went away. It was just as good then and is better now. I subscribe to way more stuff now than I did then. I've never understood how this "killed the entire medium".

I use RSS daily, but I am very much anomaly among my friends. For most people I know RSS just withered and died and got replaced by Facebook or whatever asocial media they are on.

I ended up rolling my own server (in scheme using sxml) and writing some minimal clients for it (tui, Emacs and web). It is running on a raspberry pi 2 and is currently using about 5mb of memory (the guile runtime is a large chunk of that) and has been down once since I started it 5 years ago (power outage).

Reader was to me the absolute best example of the good old web. Since then it seems like the web became insane with the idea of reinventing UI, which was then forced down our throats for both web and desktop, ruining two paradigms that worked just fine.

I am old,I know.

Sure, yeah, using RSS is rare, but it always was, and nothing was going to keep the vast majority of people from using Facebook and Twitter instead.

I don't understand why you rolled your own server. Feedly works great. If you did it because it's a fun project, that's awesome! But it certainly isn't necessary if your goal is just to subscribe to RSS feeds.

Back then the only alternatives were either commercial with shitty data policies or TTRSS which scared me away as it back then was probably the most hostile open source project on GitHub.

So I rolled my own. I will probably port it to use SQL so I can do easy searching when my kids move out :)

If we're doing anecdata when Reader was killed off I tried Feedly, didn't like it, stopped consuming via RSS. I've recently tried Newsblur but honestly I never check the thing despite having it on every device I can. I don't think RSS is a thing for me anymore outside of technically podcasts

Same here. I miss it but I haven't been satisfied with the options I tried (anyway Google long ago killed my list of feeds).

You've got the causality reversed here. The medium was dying, so the Reader product was killed.

You mean Google+ needed promotion so the Reader product was killed.

In the first place they'd rather you used something other than RSS so they can inject promoted content into it.

Nothing stops promoted content being injected by the feed reader. Feedly does it on their free plans.

Google+ only existed in the first place because of the thing that was killing the medium and its one hundred and forty character-limited cousin.

As I look at the big list of RSS feeds I found this very thread in, I can't help but imagine that news of it's death is a tad exaggerated.

Well, there's that too, but people complaining about Google's decision r.e. Reader don't like being reminded that there are dozens of alternatives.

Uh... the linked article compared 8 different competitors on various metrics. There are reasonable ways to disagree with Google's policy here, but "no alternatives" and "monopolistic" are just laughably silly.

I’d disagree a bit. There are competitors but the quality and the service is not on the same level. Google have made it hard to compete so that they stay in the leadership position. More importantly google maps “owns” more market share than all of them combined so it is kinda a monopoly.

I might not have explained my point well but I do think you get what I’m saying.

If players with the resources of Apple and Microsoft are lagging here, it's not because Google "made it hard", it's because it's a hard problem. Yet they are competing, and that's a good thing. Google is just better. And you want it for free. And thus we get back to the cry-me-a-river bit.

Companies with deep pockets trying and failing to gain a meaningful share in a market is more proof of a monopoly or other anti-competitive behavior, not less.

Could you point to this supposed behavior? Price and quality are, in themselves, not anticompetitive.

"Dumping" i.e. Putting out a product below cost to eliminate competitors is one of the fundamental forms of anticompetitive behaviour. All of Googles "free" products seem to fit the definition - they would not profitable standalone without Google's dominance in other markets and companies only operating in a single market cannot compete.

They are failing to provide comparable service, and thus failing to get meaningful share. I heard Apple maps is recently ok, but a couple of years ago when I tried it, it was still bad. Google has about 10 times more info than Apple or bing per building I look up (though, surprisingly, OSM is 90% of the way there for me).

Or is it because being in a #1 market position with a (until now) free price tag attracted thousands of volunteers submitting content and corrections for free?

I've probably spent a few hours correcting Google Maps (and a couple of days on OSM).

Maps quality like search engine probably increases with the number of users.

Thats a ridiculous argument. There were competitors to standard oil too.

MacOS, BeOS, AmigaOS, FreeDOS, FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD, Linux (Red Hat Linux, SUSE Linux, Debian GNU/Linux, Slackware, Mandrake, ...), Amithlon, MorphOS, Haiku, QNX, OS/2, Novell NetWare, PalmOS, ...

There are reasonable ways to disagree with Microsoft's policy here, but "no alternatives" and "monopolistic" are just laughably silly.

Your comment completely disregarded the possibility that there's a dominant market position. Which there is. It is hard to compete with free. Ask e.g. TomTom or Microsoft.

mapbox is totally a reasonable alternative, and in a lot of cases you can build something quickly with leaflet that gives you everything you need.

The article said nothing about making it free, it said that the costs, which were previously in line with competitors, increased by very, very large amounts without any perceived increase in value. Then they looked at options which were commercial offerings which cost dramatically less. They are paying for the service, it's not subsidized or free. It's like you didn't read any of the article.

They were in the free tier, so they were not paying. They even have a nice graph that shows it.

Sounds like a great opportunity for their competitors, then!

I have been doing a lot of Local Guide work, photos, verifying, etc. in a rural area. Will be switching to OSM. This was the last straw.

I'm doing the same. Been a local guide aswell. And if you are not based in the US, you never got ANY benefit from Google for that effort. I did it for the society. And now Google is earning 10x more with it...

One could say the same about Google's cry-me-a-river response to the EU's decision on Android:

"If Google needs to engage in anticompetitive behavior to keep Android profitable/viable, then they weren't ever profitable."

>Counterpoint: if these startups need a giant subsidized mapping product for free or else they aren't profitable, they weren't ever profitable.

If startups need a giant subsidized operating system for free or else they weren't profitable, they weren't ever profitable.

Do you see how ridiculous that argument is?

>As it turns out, yeah, there's a lot of value we as a society can derive from low cost pervasive mapping. So let's find a way to share the cost and not just whine about Google, no?

Yeah, Google has vacuumed up incredible amounts of mapping data from users and has now jacked up the prices with the lead this gave them. OSM (or something similar) is the way to share the cost. Google just abused their goodwill and used their other power positions to discourage open source. Whining about Google while moving elsewhere is entirely appropriate.

>Do you see how ridiculous that argument is?

What? Your counter-counterpoint doesn't make sense at. Lots of startups can afford the per seat cost of OSX or Windows. If your business can't recoup the cost of an os per employee then yeah...maybe it's not a worthwhile venture.

> Lots of startups can afford the per seat cost of OSX or Windows.

On the desktop side of things that only happens because of Linux, otherwise (if guys like Ballmer would have had their way at the end of the '90s - early 2000s) those startups would now be paying hundreds of dollars per Windows license per each machine (and maybe more depending on the number of cores? the sky would have been the limit, the same as Oracle did in their field). And not to mention the server side of things, I'm pretty sure the costs for server OS licenses would have been prohibitive for the vast majority of startups without the alternative free OS solutions.

We pay a lot more than that for MSDN licenses (which includes the OS if it's only used for development).

> Counterpoint: if these startups need a giant subsidized mapping product for free or else they aren't profitable, they weren't ever profitable.

I mean, kind of, but on the other hand, think about all the companies whose costs are subsidized by having public roads.

Yup and in the UK because freight is all on tax payer paid roads private rail has become incredibly expensive for normal people travelling.

It is not about free. It is about being more expensive than before. We live in the economy, where small companies operate at such a thin margin (even if they're profitable), that such an increase in cost often kills any hope for profitability, especially with the economies of scale. Would you prefer to fire one developer from the team, or stop using Google Maps?

I am not saying that mapping should be free, but such price bumps should be communicated better to allow paying customers prepare for changes and alternative scenarios.

And again, just another reminder, that whenever choosing a provider for anything related to your core business - think of an exit plan!

Here we go again with the "No subscription fees means you have the right to like what we give you" argument. Haven't we beaten the "nothing is actually free" horse into the ground by now? There is the matter of the vast amounts of data Google collects from people, and the other intangible costs you incur from the lack of alternative products due to the high barrier to entry (hard to compete with 'free'), and of course the risks that come with the lack of incentive on the vendor's part to maintain good will with the end user (this thread is case in point).

I completely disagree. You can find Google's pricing tactic aggressive, but it made me think about the entitlement there.

They complain that Maps at new prices would be more than the cost of their infrastructure, when actually their entire startup revolves around this data, and 5k to be able to use an amazing piece of high tech software that is ahead of the competition is..peanuts.

No matter what other business interests and strategies Google follows, there is no right to using such valuable tech for less than the monthly salary of an engineer. I find this incredible entitled.

If a startup needs a giant system of subsidized roads for free or else they aren't profitable, they weren't ever profitable.

You see where this argument leads to?

Is Google infrastructure now? Should we fund Google with tax money? Nationalize it?

No, although of course there is the point that a lot of Google's mapping data was subsidized with tax money by virtue of using the various geodata sources the U.S makes available for free to build on.

Anyone can use those, so why are people complaining?

Google does a whole lot more, and can charge whatever they want for it. OSM provides usable solutions the vast majority of users; i’ve Moved to OSM a couple of years ago in everything for privacy reasons and except for the occasional Waze route or verifications, get nothing from google that I can’t get from OSM.

No, the roads are subsidized by those who pay for them. There is a right to use them for business purposes, unlike private map services.

In most countries startups don't pay for taxes and therefore are not contributing to roads.

Counterpoint: if these startups need a giant subsidized transport infrastructure/global telecomunications network/permissive government/low-cost computer hardware/solid legal system or else they aren't profitable, they weren't ever profitable.

Re: "When it comes to Google, I'm more worried that they might just arbitrarily mothball something on a management roadmap whim."

Spot on. I would that if a site / application is hitting Maps' paid tier they can (somehow) monitize that traffic and cover the cost.

But monitization can't help you if / when they pull the plug.

p.s. I sometimes wonder how often Google looks at Slack and regrets mothballing Wave.

> In the case of maps, there weren't many great alternatives for a long time, due to Google sucking all the oxygen/profit potential out of the field with their excellent free offerings.

There was a related discussion[0] on HN a few weeks ago that I found enlightening. Commentator ucaetano's phrasing of the strategy was "create a desert of profitability around you". The discussion of moats vs deserts found here [1] is also useful.

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17047348 "Laws of Tech Economics: Commoditize Your Complement"

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17048492

Almost every conversation I've had with someone working at a startup in this city inevitably turns to the "so, are you worried Google will simply start offering your service for free?"

I remember like 3 or 4 years ago having this conversation at a hackathon with a bunch of "Machine Learning" / "Sentiment Analysis" APIs present... right as google started offering both for free on their cloud platform.

This is funny:

Paul Graham, September 2001:

> "And if you manage to write something that takes off, you may find that you were merely doing market research for Microsoft.”

Google is today's Microsoft :)

Which most likely meant the startup was a feature or a product, not a company with a viable business model.

Gmail is free. Does that mean email service is not a product? Why does fastmail exist?

Because there are people (like me) who value their privacy/data.

It is free for consumers, not for organizations. Gmail for consumers doesn't have a business model by itself, but it fits into Google's larger business model.

If it wasn't a viable business model, Google wouldn't move into the space. It's just that they first use their infinite pocket money to kill off all the competition, then switch to making money.

> If it wasn't a viable business model, Google wouldn't move into the space.

Wrong, maybe that "space" (feature or product) goes well with Google's business model, but wouldn't support a viable business mode by itself.

Being bought/aquihired by Google/others seems to be a business model several companies aim for.

That's not a business model for the company. But it is for the investors.

A lot of the time they have enough in house talent to not need to

That doesn't stop other companies seeing it as a viable business model.

Ha, that was me! Thanks for the bump!

The pricing change is understandably very frustrating for users of Google Maps who are affected, but it seems like a big win to me for everyone in the mapping market. Google is trading away a monopoly position (and related regulatory risk) in exchange for increased revenue so it's a win for them. It's a win for other mappers because now they can compete on price. It's a win for users because they are getting more choice.

But the other mapping services will very soon adjust their prices also. It makes no sense to be 10x cheaper than Google when 2x cheaper does the same.

I still have to understand openstreetmap mapping solutions. It's named open, not free, so I guess providing your own server with osm data would work. Only with FreeStreetMap the data would be infected also.

> But the other mapping services will very soon adjust their prices also. It makes no sense to be 10x cheaper than Google when 2x cheaper does the same.

There's a great deal of competition and that generally results in a race to the bottom. The market leader just removed themselves from the market and the best way to capitalize is stay low and build your userbase.

We won't see price changes by any of these companies. They all want to be #1.

When you have a service that’s ten times cheaper than the best service, people start to raise eyebrows. They perceive it to be much worse. It isn’t always true, but it’s not uncommon either. I doubt companies are going to race to the bottom.

In the context of a business building a service around it, a mapping service is not a consumer product. Superficial perception only go so far until it is debunked by careful scrutiny. I would certainly hope that a startup deciding to build a service relying on a map provider would test, and measure quantitatively how good the service is before choosing to build their business on top of it...

Google Maps API is not a consumer product, which is where you might have an argument there. A good engineer identifies their use-case and checks out the major players to determine what's a good fit. Once that determination is made, pricing is pretty much all that matters.

> I still have to understand openstreetmap mapping solutions. It's named open, not free, so I guess providing your own server with osm data would work. Only with FreeStreetMap the data would be infected also.

I'm not sure what you mean with "free"/"open". The OSM licence has a share-alike part if you merge your own map data with OSM data. If you just have a map and put points on it, it'd be fine.

It's not free as in you are not allowed to use OSM tiling servers for commercial purposes. "OpenStreetMap’s own servers are run entirely on donated resources. They have strictly limited capacity. [...] OpenStreetMap data is free for everyone to use. Our tile servers are not." [1]. They've even banned some sites for abusing their servers, e.g., FastPokeMap in 2016 [2]. But there is a very clear way of switching to OSM and serving your own map tiles with any styling you want [3]. I personally think that startups like these should go for these options since their user base is concentrated in one region.

[1] https://operations.osmfoundation.org/policies/tiles/ [2] https://github.com/openstreetmap/chef/pull/78 [3] https://switch2osm.org/serving-tiles/

Well if you don't like the OSM.org tile usage policy, they'll give you a full refund.

OSM.org doesn't prohibit commericial usage, per se. But if you're running a business, you shouldn't rely on volunteers from another project which you're not paying for.

This. Services are invited to take a slurp of data and use it as they wish, and contribute back of they make changes. It's not uncommon for a service of a certain size to become a contributor. But there's no requirement: if all they use it for is lookups and tiles, go ahead, "fill yer boots".

>In the case of maps, there weren't many great alternatives for a long time, due to Google sucking all the oxygen/profit potential out of the field with their excellent free offerings.

ianal and all that, but isn't somewhere antitrust- or monopoly- adjacent?

I know if walmart moved into a new city and started giving away hardware for free, then waited until all the local hardware stores had been shut down for 10 months, and then jacked up their prices to 100 times what they used to be before going free, that'd be pretty illegal.

IANAL either, but yeah, the practice you're describing, using revenues from other parts of a business to subsidize the areas it wants to compete hard in until the competitors are dead, is typically known as "predatory pricing", which is illegal. IIRC, Standard Oil was a big user of that playbook.

I don't know if this qualifies, and I don't know how much appetite there is for prosecuting Google for offering useful things for free. I don't think they've had much of a history of jacking up prices after killing off a market, until relatively recently. Interesting question, though.

Isn't this done all the time by Google though? They offer so many services for free, such as the consumer version of Google Maps, or YouTube (in the early days before ads)?

Not to mention Internet.org from Facebook, TOM's (free) shoes in Africa.

It does sound a lot like it, but I don't know if there's some other element you have to do to make it engaging in predatory pricing, or if there's just been no will to prosecute them yet. The FTC seems like it's been relatively lax on antitrust recently, so I could believe it's just the latter. Or maybe it's just the remnants of the free pass that governments gave the early internet, and we'll start seeing more.

What do you think about startups that give away webviews for free?


> Cooking meth if you have a valid driver's license is actually legal, I am a lawyer this is legal advice

Saying things like that could get you disbarred.

Possibly not. HN sits behind Cloudflare. Your SSL connection terminates at Cloudflare to plaintext, and new SSL connection to HN is created. Your login and password, IP and User-Agent and other bits, are in cleartext to Cloudflare.

Much less likely if you have VPN, did not give email and made random login/password. OPSec.

What are you trying to say? Cloudflare doesn't give you any more privacy.

In the highly hypothetical case that someone would actually investigate this they'd get this IP from HN's host or Cloudflare, then get their identity and then go forward with removing him from the bar association if found guilty.

No VPN case. You busted by your ISP IP logged by HN.

VPN case. I logged in HN and gave legal advice :) Minute later I logged in Reddit, same IP, same browser, probably tracking cookies too (Reddit is behind CF too). Now CF can link my HN and Reddit logins. Chances are, I logged into Reddit without VPN days ago - IP - Busted. Not so hypothetical, imho.

I am not actually a lawyer, I am random dude on the internet, that was the point, there is absolutely no need for the disclaimer. I can literally claim to be be a lawyer, recommend extremely terrible advise and not have to worry. "Iamnal" is something that needs to die.

Well, that's cool for you. But you are a relative newcomer here, at least your handle is (yes, pot, meet kettle -- but I've been here 9 years and quite a few people know that) and reputation, merit of the info, etc matters to quite a lot of the members here.

It matters in part because truth matters to a lot of people here. Actual reality matters to a lot of people here. It's a bunch of pedants.

And if you want to make it a habit of genuinely claiming to be a lawyer when you aren't and intentionally giving bad advice, you might eventually find that the mods will ban you for trolling.

> bunch of pedants. > mods will ban you for trolling.

This culture, while nice, cannot scale. At some point or another, an online community becomes an image of the wider social community it serves, regardless of the intentions of the founders or ephemeral royalty.

Just like Facebook or Reddit (d)evolved, HN cannot forever maintain a 70s hacker ethos and mannerisms. At some point or another the current reality of today's Silicon Valley tech bros and gold rush mentality will come to dominate, as it indeed has.

So I believe paulie has a point, IANAL is superfluous on any internet forum, this one included. And yes, that's solid legal advice I can give with full professional authority.

This culture, while nice, cannot scale

I can't say that I agree with you.

I have a history of joining forums, watching them grow dramatically while I'm there, leaving and watching them become a shell of their former selves afterwards. I spent some years feeling like a forum killer and afraid of the power I appeared to wield, but didn't understand and didn't feel in control of.

I have not played such a central role on HN. But it is quite clear in my mind that the right cultural practices are critical to making a large forum live and breathe at all. Because if they are enforced by only one person and that person walks out the door, the forum collapses in upon itself and traffic shrinks to a level that can be sustained by the cultural practices that remain.

I think this is a battle worth fighting. Merely agreeing with your point of view and throwing in the towel guarantees defeat.

>HN cannot forever maintain a 70s hacker ethos and mannerisms

HN doesn’t currently have any traditional hacker ethos. The points of view accepted on HN are all quite homogenous and mainstream.

There is literally no reason to ever us Imanal. Ever. It's a stupid unnecessary disclaimer that dates back to the 90s. My point was I can literally give terrible legal advice, claim to be a lawyer and their will be zero issues. The disclaimer isn't necessary

It's not [only (in some people's view)?] to avoid liability, it's to give the reader a warning that whilst the writer is convinced of the situation they don't have legal training, the writer recognises the complexity of the law and that due to that complexity their assessment may be flawed.

It's like giving a restaurant recommendation second-hand, "but I've never eaten there". Or with tech, "but I've never done it".

With people I know I disclaim _social_ liability with "this is not legal advice" -- it's not for legal reasons, it's to say please ask a lawyer before you rely on this for something serious, don't blame me you need to check for yourself.

You could call it manners.

That's your opinion. What I am telling you is that it isn't consistent with cultural norms here. If you don't wish to use the disclaimer "IANAL" (I am not a lawyer) -- which I am spelling out because your comment says Imanal, which looks like gibberish to me -- then you are free to not use it.

But most people here aren't likely to agree with you.


I'm not bickering.

This is the internet. All I have to go by is the actual writing on my screen. I was merely being as accurate and clear as I know how to be and not assuming it was a misspelling. I was merely covering all bases to make sure we are as on the same page as possible.

That's what pedants do.

Not worried about liability, just letting people know that there's a very good chance that I've completely misinterpreted the law. Maybe you're right and it's not useful.

FWIW, I find it helpful. Stating the level of confidence, and that's what IANAL is to some degree, is helpful in judging a statement.

Warning: completely unrelated to thread topic.

Poor grandparent got nuked in the votes, but I actually think this is an interesting discussion. It ties to my thoughts about politeness and behavior on the internet, which ties to my thoughts about the same IRL. Dale Carnegie, "How to Win Friends" type stuff.

Is it effective to "hedge" your arguments/posts/words with a "now I might be wrong" / "you may know more about this than me" / "I'm not a lawyer" ? I spent 4 years hearing sales gurus tell me to not do it, exude confidence. Then I had Dale Carnegie and my favorite manager ever tell me the exact opposite. I've tried both, and the "Carnegie" method seems to work best for me both online and off.

It's not just "IANAL" - the most positive responses I've seen on reddit, twitter, and here have some sort of "hedge." When I employ it, I get great responses (and lots of upvotes, which is other than response rate and quality of responses the only measure we can really use). When I don't, I get downvotes.

Sometimes the "confident asshole" approach works here and on reddit, but it can backfire HORRIBLY - see the absolute nightmare situation happening over at ArenaNet - some guy didn't quite hedge in the right way and caused a total breakdown of community/developer trust. What a mess. I bet the developer wouldn't have felt quite so attacked if the commentor had hedged a bit better. See also, any email chain Linus Torvald gets involved in.

Now this just starts a whole other discussion about whether someone should "have to" hedge, etc etc. I'm just voicing my thoughts here, curious what others think.

Linus uses hedging language quite a bit actually, eg. http://lkml.iu.edu/hypermail/linux/kernel/1807.0/01744.html

Another way to hedge, but without obviously doing so, is to rephrase the statement as a question.

For (a super basic) example, instead of going with:

  Now, I might be wrong... but you should probabably do foo, then bar.  That would avoid baz completely.
Rephrased as a simple question:

  Would it be better to do foo, then bar?  That seems like it would avoid baz completely.
Perhaps give that a try? :)

This ArenaNet situation sounds interesting. Could you post a link to it? I don't see much in search results.

Here's a couple analyses:




In short, a woman working at ArenaNet, the company running GuildWars2 (an MMORPG), posted a twitter thread about her thoughts on designing narratives in an MMO. A prominent (male) streamer of the game responded with his opinion, which (as he stated) was a disagreement of her point of view. To this, the ArenaNet employee expressed her opinion that the streamer was explaining to her how to do her job, and implied he was doing this because she is a woman.

Quite predictably the exchange exploded into a shitstorm of epic proportions, which supernovaed when ArenaNet responded to the incident by firing the employee.

I think the response by the community at large to the woman's firing is despicable, and the firing was probably not justified. But, I have been thinking a lot about the words of the exchange, and how much of a clusterfuck the situation is. The exchange itself is, in my opinion, not black and white. To be fair, I say this as a guy, so it's entirely possible that I Just Don't/Can't Get It. I accept that and am happy to be pushed back on.

The words:

>ArenaNetEmployee: {{29 tweet thread discussing character writing in MMOS}}

>Streamer: "Really interesting thread to read! However, allow me to disagree slightly. I don't believe the issue lies in the MMORPG genre itself..."

>ArenaNetEmployee: "Today in being a female game dev: "Allow me--a person who does not work with you--explain to you how you do your job."" {{quotes streamer}}

I feel like this whole shitstorm could have been avoided if the streamer had hedged just a bit better, or instead had asked her opinion. Basically, in the discussion, setting her up as the expert (which she is), while still expressing an opposed position. This is basically what hedging does anyway.

This is a really unique point of view. I think conversations would be improved with this mentality.

It might be a bit hard to swallow, though. Who's to say that a streamer is less qualified to analyze character writing in MMOs? After all, the writer is usually not the one impacted by the game. Streamers are.

I know nothing about this situation, though. </hedge> I'm just saying that it would personally feel difficult to adopt this mindset if I felt like I were qualified to express a dissenting opinion.

Well, yea, the guy is definitely qualified to have an opinion, and probably the developers should take note. In this case it just set of an unfortunate misogyny finger pointing nightmare that led to the ridiculous firing of two employees.

To your second point, that's another thing I think a lot about. Honesty, in its many forms. I value honesty tremendously, because how can two individuals (or a community) operate in good faith if people are being dishonest with each other? However... we are irrational. When I was a recruiter, going to a company with my candidate's actual rate, and then turning around and giving my candidate the actual offer, would lead to bad tastes on both sides. Instead, I'd lie to the company, tellm my candidate was asking for more, then then around and tell the candidate that the offer was less than what they were looking for. Then I'd let both parties stew for a bit, give the candidate a call back, and lo and behold I got them an extra five bucks an hour like magic (citing the actual offer). Then, both parties would feel they had really gotten the most possible value out of the transaction and be happier for it.

So then what do you do in interpersonal communication? Are you upfront and honest about your feelings regarding your qualifications? Do you state your opinions forthright, while still being polite? Or do you "play the game?"

I guess it boils down to your values. If you want to consistently be liked more, listened to more, and "get your way" more, you heed the wisdom of the ancients and do the Dale Carnegie. Even if it hurts.

In my experience though, it stops hurting very quickly. Turns out a lot of the times I was confidence in how right I was, I was way off base... And I usually end up learning something by seeing things from the opponent's perspective.

I don't know a ton about the situation -- I do know that the streamer in question was active enough with the community that an NPC in the game was named after him, though.

Some missing details, which I would call critical.

1) The day before there was a big AMA where players and developers talked about the story design, initiated and organized by the game studio. The fired developer was a prominent figure in the discussions, and the twitter thread was seen by most as an further extension to that AMA. People can have different opinion about this, but its important to know the context of when the twitter thread appeared.

2) The initial response by the community at large was both on reddit and on the official Guild Wars 2 Forum to not fire anyone. It was only later unearthed that the developer had also celebrated when cancer victim John Bane died at age 33. At this point many have pointed out that the community changed view and could no longer support having such individual in the community, and a massive thread called something like "Developers should also have to follow Anet own conduct policy" was created.

Hedging is useful, but there is some lines which companies and communities are unlikely to accept. Celebrating the death of cancer victims is one, and is likely not something any one want to be associated with. The second aspect is to not responding to art criticism with labeling the person as sexist to 10k followers, which given the close connection to Anet organized AMA and the fact that their name is directly next to the message could make Anet legal liable for slander. Third, game developer is closely connected to community management and there is a good reason why conduct policies exist and get enforced. One could argue in defense that twitter is "personal" and out of the conduct policy scope, but that is very much up to discussion and it seems that the guild wars 2 community is generally in favor that such policy do cover developers talking about the game on social media, especially in connection to community events.

Reading what's in the articles and twitter the firing sounds too much. On the other hand I don't see the guy needing to be even more courteous. She could tell him that his idea doesn't work, there are complexities he wouldn't understand or that she doesn't want outside opinions or whatever. Calling him names for no real reason and inventing gender bias to me is pointless. Yes he could have bias in his heart but you can't start judging people assuming things.

If you start making silly things about gender than the real problems gets lost and you hurt the cause that you are trying to promote. The subsequent twitter posts doesn't read good to me either. But some of the backlash against her was equally or probably even more so outrageous. The anonymity and distance that social media gives it users seem to in general bring out the worst in people except for rare exceptions.

Just my opinion of course, but I see the basic problem as employees using twitter. Many companies encourage employees to use twitter, social media, etc. for more direct interaction with customers, the community, etc.

What is often overlooked, is that in communication you are first an employee of a company, and your own opinions and feelings come way later.

As is clear in this example, not everybody can do this (all of the time).

She is certainly entitled to this opinion. But as an employee, she should not have expressed it. Most likely the company didn't reflect on this before allowing/encouraging her to use twitter to communicate.

I'm speculating that the company didn't have a communication strategy to contain a shit storm. And in the end just fired the employee. Firing the employee only makes sense if she has a history of causing the kinds of issues.

Again, just my personal opinion.

> could have been avoided if the streamer had hedged just a bit better

If you find a live claymore in the middle of the company meeting room, exploding it can be avoided by circumspect behavior.

If that's all you do about it, you might as well start calling it "boss".

A lawyer wouldn't have to hedge and say "IANAL." Why would we expect Torvalds to hedge? He's the expert in change of his project.


A lawyer can be wrong, and so can Torvalds, but yea, they may be more likely to be wrong.

Nobody has to, but in my experience, you do seem to get a much more positive reaction when you do.

At least in Western culture, it seems a well played "humble" character is admirable, especially when it is known that the particular person has absolutely no reason to be humble.

EDIT: I don't expect anybody to hedge "just because", but I expect that a person with extremely good interpersonal communication skills to hedge.

In small talk, yes, be polite and humble everywhere.

In science and engineering, I prefer it has some meaning. If you're sure in what you're saying, have data to back it up, dealt with it before - say straight. If it's a guess, say it is a guess.

So I would not spend time guessing was it politeness of lack of facts behind that hedging. Btw, I upvoted GP :)

Sure, but a lawyer / Torvalds / any SME might want to hedge that their opinion is strong or not.

There's a pretty darn big difference between "my gut feeling is that this approach is too complicated, but I've not analyzed the problem sufficiently to know whether my gut is correct" and "there's no way this is the right architecture, it'll have harmful impact, and there's lots of better ways to do it".

It's imo especially important to do so from positions of authority where others might be less critical in accepting ones statements as truth.

There is never a reason to make the disclaimer that you are not a lawyer on the internet ever, this concept needs to die.

I know if walmart moved into a new city and started giving away hardware for free, then waited until all the local hardware stores had been shut down for 10 months, and then jacked up their prices to 100 times what they used to be before going free, that'd be pretty illegal.

This is what drug dealers do.

It was also the plot of the James Bond film Live and Let Die.

Are you saying drug dealers go around giving their product for free until no competition or we are hooked?

I don't really think that happens at all. If so where are they?

I doubt anyone is driving out competition with free product, but using free product to hook a new client is definitely a thing that happens.

That's not too say that there's guys on street corners offering free drugs to random passersby. Rather there's lots of dealers who just deal to aquaintances, friends, friends of friends, neighbors, etc. In that case they can spread a few hundred dollars worth of product around to non-users within their social network in hopes of picking up another client or two, who will end up generating reliable profit for a long time.

Don't Uber and Amazon do that already?

i think uber at least (not that i want to defend anything they do) is different, because they don’t have low rates to smother their competition; they have low introductory rates to attract riders and drivers to the service

unsure if that’s also predatory pricing? seems different to me

Just because they have a nice PR-friendly story to tell doesn't make the pricing any less predatory. The point of predatory pricing is to attract people to the service, to shut down competition.

> they don’t have low rates to smother their competition

Whether their competition is Lyft, Taxis, or public transportation, their subsidized pricing is a big factor to their customers.

And WalMart.

Yes. Web search: "Amazon diapers.com".

Walmart practically did this but with a little twist back in the days. They opened multiple extra stores within a very small geographical area. Some stores were actually losing money but it didn't matter to them because they used it to completely destroy all competitors in that area and forced them to close up their shops. Once everybody is gone, Walmart has accomplished their mission and then proceeded to shut down the extra stores as well.

Is there something like Amazon or Google shopping with a list of prices for all products through time? Kind of like the Wayback Machine (archive.org) but for products.

Maybe having a searchable historical database of everything imaginable and their prices would keep companies honest and prevent price gouging.

This exists for Amazon products: camelcamelcamel.com

Something like a PaaS Price zombie https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11360262?

In Japan there is a site called kakaku.com which maintains graphs for historical prices. We used it to great effect when buying a combo washer and dryer.

That's a really neat idea! Maybe include alerting and the ability to "follow" services you use to monitor their prices?

I find a good site like every few years, but they always disappear. My guess is there is more (some) money in B2B.

camelcamelcamel (.com)

Google did something similar with Stackdriver logging, where they went from a generous free tier to an insanely expensive $.50/Gb in roughly 2-3 months.

Very annoying. Especially because by default every GCP service logs a bunch of crap to Stackdriver.

Our log cost was going to be as high as our compute cost.

They've got easy to use exclusions that eliminate the cost if you don't want the logs (and can be pretty picky about what to exclude, even to the point of doing percentage exclusions) and they announced it in advance and pushed the date back a few times.

My issue is with devs that write software that spits out a couple of gigs an hour and refuse to trim it down or exclude things.

Diane Greene must be trying to build a profitable operation.

Why you cannot trust this model 101: because it's practitioners understand the value of the labor/product, capitalize on the OSS ideal and then push it to the unsuspecting.

I don't know how many bait and switch episodes from google I need to see but by 2008 I was done with them -- for the first time. Ad-nauseam.

If you boycotted and didn't use Google they would wither and die and stop being something to worry about: for immediate google specific free offerings that are sucker bait. Also for self aggrandizing standards/inclusions and buying the overt talent. But whatever. The HN community is full of dupes and buy ins, culture whores and fifth columnists. True belief in OSS died when everyone else took it and got rich.

Re: "...is surely an unpleasant surprise for us and does not create much trust in Google as a vendor..."

I was under the impression the trust for Google evaporated a long time ago. Sure, alternatives can be few at times. But anyone committed to and in bed with Google has to be sleeping with one eye open.

In the future we would therefore keep our distance from Google Cloud and avoid deep integration with any Google services on which it can pull a similar trick.

Ah, the classic Oracle trick. Good to see the tradition is alive.

> In the future we would therefore keep our distance from Google Cloud and avoid deep integration with any Google services on which it can pull a similar trick

It seems like they haven't learned anything at all. Sure it was google that shafted them in this case, but the problem isn't google, it's that their business is entirely dependent on a third party who has the power to do this. They rejected the option that would have prevented this from happening in the future with another company.

Oracle probably has a sales team on the way to their offices now.

If you are relying on other services that heavily, it sounds like you didn't have such a great business to start with

The only alternative would be to develop everything in house and to purchase and run your own servers.

Google was subsidizing their startup. Makes sense that they have to pay at least something.

Ever worked at a startup?

Having interacted with the Google Maps sales team, I would imagine these posts are a result of these companies hopping on a sales call expecting something ‘google’-like and are surprised that the Oracle sales team is on the call. The value extraction mentality was a bit surprising compared to the image the rest of google presents.

Remember when Google once said “Don’t be evil” as their motto? Well what Google did at this instance and on nowadays is evil. But on the other hand, I think it is necessary, because at the end of the day Google is still a company that needs to make money and most importantly compete with each other, I’m really disappointed at Google to abuse their trust to hurt others.

Well what Google did at this instance and on nowadays is evil

What do you mean it's evil? People call Google evil for so many things that are hardly evil at all, that the word has lost its meaning in the context of Google. For example I honestly cannot tell if you're calling them evil for increasing Maps pricing (thereby hurting maps-consuming startups) or for previously asking a low price (thereby hurting startups that offer maps).

Probably for not showing consistency :)

That motto was removed some years ago: people using to too much to call them out.

On the other hand, if you are a business making real money, these price changes are no big deal. This happens all the time. Where some people see a sob story, I see a competitor getting stamped out.

I'm just finishing spinning up OpenStreetMap servers in EC2 as one of the last stages of our testing, and they look great. We almost went with Mapbox, which is probably a pretty good alternative. But as part of that move I decided to try OSM tiles and I had them up and running in an afternoon via a docker image, created an Ansible role for deploying virtual machines that evening, and had tiles for our region built the next night after tuning some CartoCSS for our needs.

We already have our own aerial tiles, built off the free NAIP imagery, and I just went through rebuilding the 2017 NAIP tiles last week to make them higher quality and fix some seam issues.

This combination is pretty good and lets us take control of our map tile destiny.

References I used in setting things up:

https://github.com/zavpyj/osm-tiles-docker https://switch2osm.org/ https://ircama.github.io/osm-carto-tutorials/tile-server-ubu...

I totally recommend hosting your own tile-server using open street map if you have the resources. Creating your own tile-server is not as difficult as it may sound however it is really resource intensive, especially if you want to cover large areas. For a single EU country it shouldn't be that resource intensive.

I have set it up on a Centos 7 server using more or less the instructions from here https://switch2osm.org/manually-building-a-tile-server-16-04... (yes they are for Ubuntu but you'll get the idea) and everything works great. Even if you don't really need it, I recommend trying it to understand how it works; it has some very intuitive ideas.

Beyond the tile server I am also proposing GeoServer (http://geoserver.org) for hosting the geo points on the maps (it can integrate with PostGIS and various other datasources and output the geo points in various different formats). You can then use Leaflet (https://leafletjs.com) to actually display the map and points!

The fastest way, if you don't have resources and don't mind being up to a few months behind, is to use OpenMapTiles vector tiles [1].

The download is an SQLite database with a standard-ish structure (MBTiles), you can either write a small server or use theirs.

I needed vector tiles in other projections — WGS84 equirectangualar, an Arctic one, and an Antarctic one. Generating those took many hours on a cluster.

[1] https://openmaptiles.com/downloads/planet/

It's not comparable to OSM tiles as it's paid for licencing for commercial use.

That's correct — I'd forgotten that, as my project has the open data use license.

However, as an example, the one-time $40 for Colorado is likely to be much cheaper than generating them yourself, and is probably adequate if you don't need to keep up to date.

Vector tiles is interesting and they are actually supported by GeoServer http://docs.geoserver.org/stable/en/user/extensions/vectorti.... However I wasn't able yet to integrate them to my GeoServer installation.

Has anybody else been able to try this?

We are looking at moving to Vector tiles after the deployment of openstreetmap raster tiles is completed. We need to look at the performance closely though because on some devices it was slower with Vector tiles. I think we still want to go that direction we just have to quantify some of the performance.

You can render raster on the fly from a vector based tileserver, and optionally use vector maps for clients where it makes sense (mobile for example).

I've been running a large OSM raster rendering stack for a while, for the whole planet. Moving on to a vector based stack right now, which is what you should do if you are starting today. The reason being the server, with vector tiles pre-rendered, can very quickly render raster tiles on the fly. It's fast enough that for most cases, there is no need to cache them. Once I get the new stack fully burned in, we'll swap our raster rendering stack out for the new vector stuff and do raster on the fly. I might cache the rasters depending on throughput, but from what I can tell it should be basically a non-issue.

The difference between raster tiles and vector tiles is that in raster tiles the rendering (conversion to actual images) is done on your server (either when each tile is loaded for the first time or you may initialize a bunch of zoom levels for your area yourself; this may take hours to days depending on your area size) while for vector tiles you just send the descriptions/shapes and the inages are created on the client side. It is expected that the client performance won't be as good as with raster tiles and slow clients like mobile phones will struggle while trying to render the images.

One interesting idea would be to have both raster and vector tiles; then in your client side code you could detect if the client is a mobile device or a desktop pc (I am not sure if you can detect more things about how speedy the device would be) and serve the corresponding tileset (ie the vector tileset if the device is desktop or the raster one if it is mobile). This way you will definitely decrease the load on your server and most clients won't have performance problems!

In any case, the clients will get faster as the time passes so after some years vector tiles would probably be the norm because they have the huge advantage that it is very easy to style them on-the-fly in any way you like (while, to style raster images you need to re-create them all from scratch).

which tileserver are you using?

would it be possible to learn more about your setup?


I am using more or less the instructions from switch2osm https://switch2osm.org/manually-building-a-tile-server-18-04... however for a Centos 7 server (we use Centos in my organization).

This results in having a tile server that generates & serves raster tiles using:

* carto to generate a proper stylesheet

* mapnik to create the tiles

* apache with the mod_tile module to serve the tiles

* renderd to be used as a bridge between apache/mod_tile and mapnik

* Postgres/PostGIS as a database to host the data

The actual data is an OpenStreetMap pbf file downloaded from http://download.geofabrik.de/ which is inserted to the database through osm2pgsql.

The above are used for the raster tile server only.

In addition to this, I am using geoserver (http://geoserver.org/) which is a Java web app (runs in tomcat) that is used to view/edit and (mainly) serve geospatial data. What I usually do is that when I need to display a new shape (shp) file I use shp2pgsql to insert it to a table in my PostGIS database (using something like this shp2pgsql -s SRID SHAPEFILE.shp SCHEMA.TABLE | psql -h HOST -d DATABASE -U USER) also another good tool is ogr2ogr which can convert between various formats (it also supports kml, for example ogr2ogr -f "PGDump" koko.sql test.kml).

After the shp file is inserted to the database, I can create a datasource for this dataset from GeoServer and publish this dataset to the web (i.e the dataset will have a URL of the form; it can then be consumed by client applications (in javascipt) using leaflet or openlayers. Notice that GeoServer can easily publish various file formats for example an SHP directly (you don't need to insert it to the PostGIS; this is something I do for better control of my datasources).

PostGIS is the component that supports the vector tiles (http://docs.geoserver.org/latest/en/user/extensions/vectorti...) so I want to integrate it the OpenStreetMap data that is hosted in my PostGIS (which is used for the raster tiles); I haven't found the time yet though.

I think it's a great setup and it works great for the needs of the organization I work for; actually, I like it so much that I want (for a long time) to write a rather comprehensive tutorial on how to set ip up along with some notes on how to do various PostGIS things but I don't know when (and if) I'll find the time for something so large :/

You mention being "a few months behind", what is the reason for this lag?

My apologies, I'm out-of-date with the commercial offerings of OpenMapTiles — I work on an open data project, eligible for OpenMapTiles' free license which has old (currently one year old) tiles.

With a commercial license, the tiles are from 2 July.

I assume the commercial tiles are a few days behind as it's just not worth most people's effort to stay up-to-the-hour — different map services can offer that, this company is making easy self-hosted map tile packages.

The free license is presumably using older data to encourage an upgrade.

Tile generation wasn't THAT bad. We only cover Colorado and Wyoming, and generating the tiles for those at the zoom levels 5-18 takes around 7 hours to pre-render (using "render_list_geo.pl"). The end result is around 25GB of rendered meta-tiles.

Much better than the NAIP aerial imagery, which takes around 3TB for the source data, 280GB for the resulting tiles, and around a full day to generate.

Yes it wasn't bad for a single area (we cover only Greece and it was quick and easy for such a small country). However I couldn't imagine of the resources needed to cover the whole world!

Oh, and we are using the mapbox.js viewer rather than leaflet.

Mapbox.js is a leaflet extension to make it easier to use Leaflet with Mapbox services. So you're using both!

Would it be possible to put Free map tiles in something like DAT or IPFS, to share the load? Kind of like Peertube, but for maps.

For sure, substack did this with peermaps + IPFS, check it out: https://peermaps.github.io/

Source: https://github.com/peermaps/peermaps

Also writeup about the architecture: https://github.com/digidem/osm-p2p-db/blob/master/doc/archit...

If you use vector tiles, and render them client side you could do this. For raster tiles, where you're storing images, there are too many images to do this practically.

And then you need to think of how to do data updates. OSM updates minutely.

Data updates are not required for many applications. You probably don't want to be google maps! For example I haven't updated the OSM data for more than a year and I don't think that there are any problems with the data being stale. It all depends on the application of course.

One major advantage of not updating your data very often is that the tile-images won't need to be re-generated thus you save a lot of (CPU intensive) resources! I think that another commenter mentioned that he generated the tiles in a CPU intensive system and then just off-loaded the images to not-so-fast system for serving.

You can also prerender the tiles on a powerful machine and host them on a cheap instance (assuming you don't need very large regions). A while ago I created an OSM server (https://github.com/seemk/TileSweep) to do this for me, you can select regions you want to render via a polygon and you get a SQLite database of the tiles. It can also run as an alternative for mod_tile + renderd.

I rendered all of Estonia from zoom levels 0 to 18 (~16.5M tiles) which is around 20GB and host the tiles on a cheap DigitalOcean instance.

* How is the workflow for updating OSM data with this project?

* What is the recommended procedure for backup + restore?

I find a lot of projects in this space make you go through an manual copy-paste setup process like if it was a one-time thing - it is not - updating OSM data is a crucial part in this process and should be part of it.

I haven't investigated updating of data using anything clever. I know the database load script can write out a list of tiles that need to be rerendered, which can be fed into the renderd process. Renderd has multiple priority channel so bulk renders are a lower priority than user views, so a live system can update the tilecache without much easier impact.

I haven't investigated it because we are probably moving to Vector tiles over the next month or two, and we don't need up to the minute map updates. On one of our sites, we have been rendering navteq tiles and we only get updates for those quarterly. It was only our public site that we were using Google Maps for.

Backup and restore we are just doing via normal backup programs. The tilecache is stored in meta tiles, which is a d duplicated set of 64 tiles in a single file. So we are only dealing with about a million files in a directory structure totaling 25 gigabytes.

If we needed to restore or update our tiles, we would probably just spin up a new box and rerun ansible to deploy it. I have it all encoded Within a Playbook.

I was wondering too why they skipped OpenStreetMap so quickly.

Living in Germany, I find the map quality of OSM much better than Google Maps. Sure, it lacks the integration with the other Google services like a good search and live traffic, but speaking about the pure map quality, Google is lacking a lot of detail here.

From the article (emphasis added):

"Which maps should we investigate deeper?

Some options we could reject quickly for various reasons. OpenStreetMap is not supposed to be directly used by commercial sites. Apple Maps, even though we wouldn't mind having Apple logo on our site somewhere, was just released as beta and requires Apple developer account to test properly."

The OpenStreetMap.org website doesn't ban commerical sites (per se). The volunteer sysadmins who manage the donated hardware that runs the OpenStreetMap.org website don't offer any SLA and reserve the right to ban people/apps which put too much load on it. If you don't like it, they're prepared to give you a full refund.

I read that, but compared to the effort they put into analysing the whole issue, at least an estimate about the cost involved in hosting their own server would be a good decision.

It seems like they rejected OSM because they couldn't directly use the OSM site to serve tiles, but would instead need to host their own infrastructure for it. I understand that, but for us we decided to go ahead and own it.

I think if the maps service is part of your core product, it is good considering a self hosted solution. Yes, it costs time you want to save as a startup, but at least you control your own product and can manage your cost directly.

Thanks for the docker image pointers; just what I was looking form. What kind of traffic volume can you handle on what size VM's?

We found some references saying that each box could probably handle around 10,000 map tiles per second. Our full tileset is under 30GB, so it is easily cached. One of our machines can generate Tiles at a rate of 2,500/sec, another is 1,300.

Oh wow, that's a faster tile generation rate than I was expecting. What are the specs on the machines/VMs you're using to get those rates?

They are both virtual machines, 32GB and 32 CPUs for the 1,300/sec and 20CPUs for the 2,500/sec. The 32 cores are on a host machine with two "Intel(R) Xeon(R) Silver 4108 CPU @ 1.80GHz", the 20 cores are "Intel(R) Xeon(R) CPU E5-2637 v2 @ 3.50GHz". You know, 7,001.21 bogomips (TM). :-)

How does Mapbox stack up against what you've built? Does Mapbox provide any advantages or is are the two not very comparable? How difficult would it be to spin up a Mapbox competitor?

How does Mapbox stack up against what we've built? Well, they have way more people working on the problem, so there's going to be more support and more eyes on the problem. I didn't directly compare map tiles, that was a couple other people on my team. We decided to try moving forward with our own OSM-based tiles, so the conclusion I've come to is that it compares favorably.

How difficult would it be to build a competitor to Mapbox? Well, if all you care about are map tiles, it's no big deal. If you want to build a business around it, that's always work. You're going to need to build the tiles, have infrastructure to serve it, monitoring, staff to manage it, billing and charging infrastructure, etc...

Mapbox also offers geocoding and navigation, which are quite a bit more difficult than just setting up a server that can host OSM tiles. Obviously, if all you need are maps, that's fine. But if you need maps with search, which I suspect most people do, rolling your own is tougher (though projects like pelias are pretty good).

I set up a pelias system a while ago but it never got any traction. We have another geocoder already set up using Experian QAS data, I think we've had that set up for a decade or more, so that isn't one of our concerns. Good point though.

Thank you very much, may I ask two questions:

  * what is the workflow to update the OSM data?
  * what is your recommendation for a good geocoder?

Updating is easy, the tooling built around OSM takes care of all of it.

https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Nominatim is an OK geocoder, definitely worth trying out at least. Though the pay services will definitely be better.

I answered your questions where you asked it elsewhere in this thread.

I only came to the comments to upvote whoever mentioned OpenStreetMaps. It needs our love.

Uh, while I upvote OSM comments a lot because I often think they are good comments, blindly upvoting based on positive mentions of OSM does not contribute to the conversation...

I only came to the comments to upvote whoever mentioned OpenStreetMaps. It needs our love.

This is the platform Maps.me is based on, correct? I ask because I downloaded Maps.me the other day, after reading HN, and have found it to be missing most businesses that I've attempted to search for. In addition, there seems to be no obvious way to suggest missing destinations.

I too want Google/Apple maps alternatives to succeed, but my limited trial so far has not been promising.

> I ask because I downloaded Maps.me the other day, after reading HN, and have found it to be missing most businesses that I've attempted to search for. In addition, there seems to be no obvious way to suggest missing destinations.

You might try looking at OsmAnd. It too uses OpenStreetMap data, but it does allow you to add some amount of missing data as well (see https://osmand.net/features?id=osm-editing-plugin).

This, of course, is part of the advantage of OpenStreetMap, you notice something missing, you add it, and now it is no longer missing.

And one can of course also add data to OpenStreetMaps via a browser. I've been trying to add any businesses I've found missing.

> In addition, there seems to be no obvious way to suggest missing destinations.

That's strange. I just checked Maps.me on Android, and if you open the hamburger menu there's an "add a place to the map" option.

Same on iOS.

>there seems to be no obvious way to suggest missing destinations. Unless Maps.Me use their own database for business listings, you just edit the map directly from openstreetmap.org or one of the many fat client map editors that are out there.

I don’t think that’s true. Items added on the OSM page appear on maps.me, and items added on maps.me appear on OSM.

You can add things to OSM using the Maps Android app; open the hamburger menu, choose "Add a place to the map".

Maps is based on Maps.me.

It's as much as a 28x increase in price. For Street View imagery, the cost has gone from $0.5 per 1000 views to $14 / 1000. Unlike with maps, Street View lacks a real alternative.

I'm seeing my own costs, for a site which I run on my own, rise from $1,500 / month to around $30,000 / month.

Their rationale is essentially that they did not want commercial users abusing their free tier. Before this change, they had been reaching out to such entities individually, offering their 'premium plan' service.

The pricing for the (old) premium plan was remarkably similar to the new pricing which now applies to everyone.

This pricing change has ended the era of Google Maps mashups / hobby projects.

If you read the original article, it gives you the impression that it's tiles only. But as you point out it's a lot of different parts of the Maps service going up by usually an order of magnitude at least.

I run a geocoding service for Australia specifically (https://geocodeplus.com.au) and a lot of people I talk to are completely unaware that they're going to see a x10 change in what their forward/reverse geocoding is going to cost them.

If they were concerned about abuse from free tiers, there's much better ways to handle it than this. It's Google we're talking about.

Also, it's a lame excuse because this affects paid users such as yourself who have nothing to do with the abuse.

In Google's defense, a hobby project wouldn't need 750k requests a month. At that point it's more than a hobby. But, the 28k limit is low.

You're right about the Street View feature that is currently a true key diferenciator that has not a lot of competition in terms of availability and coverage.

Though, Mapillary is quite interesting but their pricing model is not really comparable to Google's one: https://www.mapillary.com/pricing

I think there is a different reason for charging for StreetView. The need to make their money back and quick. Self driving cars will have cameras that will give reasonable results for a lot of use cases (maybe not 360 but who cares). It is also a potential combo monetization strategy for the autonomous vendor.

The standard license prohibits use in autonomous vehicles. Para 2.e https://maps.google.com/help/terms_maps.html

The issue isn't what google allows/prohibits, its that any new autonomous vehicle company could quickly amass a similar data set to street view and nullify googles 10 plus year investment driving non autonomous cars around to capture street view images.

It's not as simple as capturing the imagery. The backend processing for Google maps is astonishing. It will take years to get to the smoothness that is Google Streetview.

I think the comment you replied to was saying that StreetView will soon be commodotized, so they need to make the money back now.

Please contact the US Department of Justice and let them know about how the price increase is affecting you in regards to Street View. They seemed to buy into my reasoning that Google has effectively made sure that they won't have any Street View competition by artificially keeping prices low for years. The more people that complain, the sooner the DOJ will probably take action. For European users I recommend complaining to your regulators as well, especially using Street View as your main complaint since there's no real alternatives.

Bing Streetside and OpenStreetCam are a thing. They just aren't very good. There's a huge up-front investment for street view images that other companies didn't want to take.

Microsoft invested in it, released a product and the product wasn't as good as the market leader. That's not predatory.

Other companies didn’t want to make that huge investment BECAUSE of Google. Google offered the same service for free, which meant they had no recourse for recouping that investment. Now that has changed, and the lack of standing competitors is a direct result of that history.

Microsoft has made HUGE investments into Bing and yet Google was always superior and Microsoft isn't exactly rolling in money with Bing.

There are several competitors, the issue at hand is they have an inferior product. If your argument held any water, literally everyone would use TMobile because they are so much cheaper. Reality is, a products quality matters and Google Maps were both more cost effective AND a better product.

So you're upset that Google hasn't been charging a lot more all along?

Just because there are competitors in a field does not mean that one company does not hold a monopoly. There were other oil companies in existence when standard oil was broken up.

I never said it did. The argument was that there was no competition. There is competition, it's just weak for some aspects of Google Maps. And the argument here seems to be that Google isn't allowed to start charging for a product because they didn't before, which is silly.

The link to make a complain would be the antitrust division here: https://www.justice.gov/atr/report-violations

>They seemed to buy into my reasoning

We're going to need a bit more detail from an account that clearly has an agenda.

When it comes to Google I just have a lot of issues with the company and didn't have my real login handy when an article about them came up a few days ago. From big issues, like hiring Eric Schmidt and frequent attempts at anti-competitive behavior, to small ones, like prudish censoring of search results and weird customer service (including a six-month delay in getting a response to a simple request for a Maps enterprise quote), I could really just go on and on with the variety of reasons why I don't like Google. I've seen firsthand, at multiple Google locations, an odd attitude that must have permeated from the top. The only people that seemed to be different were a few acquihires who exuded a combination of resignation and pragmatism about their situation.

Edit: If you meant that you wanted more detail about my antitrust complaint, I contacted them via the antitrust email address. They took a while to call back, but not as long as Google took to get me that Maps quote...

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