Thursday, May 2, 2013

route-me and Maply

I like route-me.  It's open source, it's been around a while, lots of people use it, and it works.  Heck, I used it on a project once.

For those in the dark, route-me is a free toolkit for displaying custom slippy maps with overlaid shape, marker and other features on iOS.

Anyway, I like route-me, which puts me in an awkward position.  I want to replace it.


I make an open source toolkit called WhirlyGlobe-Maply.  There are three ways you can use it.

3D Interactive Globe   -   Interactive 3D map with tilt   -   Interactive flat (2D) map

The WhirlyGlobe part is the globe, the Maply part is the other two.  I've done a bit with the interactive 3D map and it's a blast, but it's not what most people want to do.  They want a true flat map.

Okay, so great, I can do a flat map.  But why bother?  If you want Apple's data, you use MapKit, if you want Google's data you use their iOS API.  If you want your own data, you buy a commercial toolkit or you use route-me.  Do I really have anything to offer over route-me?

I do.  WhirlyGlobe-Maply is based on OpenGL ES.  My toolkit is in the same class of "stupid fast" as Apple's, Google's, and the commercial alternatives.  I can't beat them feature for feature, but then I don't have to.  Mine is open source.

That's a fun bit of self aggrandizement, but it really needs to lead somewhere.  I think it's only worth matching route-me's features if someone's paying.  There's money out there for this kind of thing and it's welcome to look me up.  And it did.


The MapBox guys, Justin particularly, have their own route-me variant they call the MapBox iOS SDK.  It's really nice, with a lot of functionality filled in and tons of documentation and examples, things that open source projects often lack (cough).

Very cool, but route-me uses Quartz, the technology behind UIKit (kind of).  That's what you're supposed to do, but it's not as fast as the new Apple Maps.  They're obviously not using Quartz, they're using OpenGL ES.  Maply uses OpenGL ES so...

MapBox is paying me to jack up their version of route-me and stick Maply underneath.

route-me + Maply = What?

The idea is pretty simple.  Accelerate route-me's tile display with Maply, then see if we can do anything with annotations.  In theory it looks pretty good.  The initial experiment looks good too, but we've got a ways to go.

If everything goes well, the standard route-me app might be able to switch over seamlessly.  Your custom Quartz rendering will still be Quartz, but anything you represented in route-me tile sources and annotations could be handled by Maply.  Or not.  It's an experiment, we'll see.


  1. Hi! Sounds good! Any updates for this?

  2. I've been meaning to post an update, so I'll give you the short version.

    I did it and it more or less worked. What I learned in the process of doing it was that Maply is way more powerful a toolkit than route-me. It's also a lot more efficient.

    If you're just displaying a single basemap route-me works fine. If you need to overlay a bunch of vectors, labels, markers, or what have you, then switch to Maply.

    I've helped a number of projects switch at this point and it's not too hard.