Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Closing of the Mapbox APIs

We make WhirlyGlobe-Maply, a mobile map toolkit that's open source and really fast.  We'd like money to make it better.

The web?  Sure, we'd love to make a Javascript/WebGL version.  Pay us!

And while you're here, do you have any ideas for free marketing?


MapTiler Streets in WhirlyGlobe-Maply


Mapbox & Competition Lost

Let's be honest, Mapbox makes the biggest and best maps SDKs for developers.  Google's map is better, but their SDK is meh.  Apple Maps is pretty good in both ways.  Bing is... also around.  As are lots of others.  But MapboxGL was always our competition.

My vector toolkit predated theirs.  Really!  And I had a few map app developers because of that.  But when they turned on the Softbank money hose, my little toolkit never had a chance.  I lost most of those customers in the ensuing years.  That wasn't fun.

Lucky me, I could see it coming.  I steered the company into weather and aviation.  Unlike a lot of competitors, we survived.


Closed vs. Open Source

Mapbox has changed the license on its mobile and now Javascript APIs to something that is not open source.  Is it free?  I can't really tell.  But it's certainly not open.

I've been expecting this for years.  It's the standard Silicon Valley Venture Capital play.  Make a thing cheap, destroy the competition, enjoy your market.  They executed it well.

So now we're going to get all those customers back, right?  Ha!


Lock In / New Users

The truth is those developers won't ever come back.  The cost of switching is too high and they're off doing other things.  Anyway, if you're using Mapbox services, it's fine.  That strategy totally works.

We have picked up a few open source map extremists in recent years.  They've contributed money to our Vector Tiles and Style Sheet support.  It's getting really good.

So what's next?


We Are Open Source

Let me reiterate that the WhirlyGlobe-Maply toolkit is licensed under Apache 2.0, a very friendly license for doing all sorts of commercial work.

Open source powers our small business and we're committed to it.  It's a contract between us and our community.  One we've honored through several major upgrades.


Javascript / WebGL

And hey, we're open to making a Javascript version of the toolkit.  And not just a cross-compiled version, a real SDK for JS developers.

I've actually proposed this to weather users a few times.  Just the parts they need, overlaid on a web map.  Not the whole thing, but the core rendering is the same.

We'd open source it, because that's who we are.  If you're interested, reach out.  Preferably with money.


Marketing on the Cheap

With less competition, you'd think we'd be set, right?  Not so much.  Mapbox remade the market in its image and we have to live in that world.

But there are opportunities.  Projects that have to switch, projects that are just starting out, competitors who don't want to write their own.  That sort of thing.

So if you have ideas for marketing to those people, I'd love to hear them.  Free ideas, preferably.  Because open source. 

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