Monday, July 7, 2014

Taking Mapbox Vectors for a Spin

I've been working on the vector tile support in Maply for months now, including Mapnik vector tiles.  The biggest proponent of Mapnik style vector tiles is Mapbox.  So let's look at Mapbox's Mapnik Vector Tiles, shall we?

Thoughts on MapBox's Vector Tiles

They're nice.  The servers are fast and the content is good.  Given that these aren't explicitly designed for mobile use, they work pretty well anyway.

If it were me, I'd add another couple of levels in dense areas.  Newer hardware can power through the level 14 tiles, but it tends to strain older devices.

Can I Use These?

No.  Mapbox hasn't released the tiles and there's no way to pay for them.  You shouldn't make an app with them.  Don't be that guy.  No one likes that guy.

Nonetheless, they work great in Maply and if you were a big enough customer I'm sure you could work something out with Mapbox.

Why did I bother?  Believe it or not, this isn't the first set of Mapnik vector tiles I've supported.

Maply Vector Tile Support

Other people are doing their own Mapnik vector tiles, standing up their own servers, and generally doing their own thing.  Some of them are my customers and some of them have even shipped apps.

The Maply support for vector maps is in good shape, but there are a few things I'd like to improve.  Labels could be better, particularly the font twiddling and layout modes and there are some bugs worth tracking down.

Mapnik vector tile paging is in WhirlyGlobe-Maply 2.3.


  1. Does Maply support .mbtile vector tile files created from tile-live copy? Is there a sample project somewhere?

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. How are you creating vector tiles using tile-live copy ? I've been thinking on something like that:
      tilelive-copy -j my.job --minzoom=2 --maxzoom=4 --metatile=8 \
      bridge:///path/to/file.xml \

  2. I've used mbtile files from Andy Allan, which I presume were built that way.

    I am just about to do a little work for a client on the newer version of vector tiles, so if you send me an example I'll test it.

    1. Gladly. What would be an appropriate way to get it to you?

    2. Just hit me up at
      If it's big, dropbox is fine or Google Docs/Drive/WhateverItIsThisWeek.

  3. Hi, it sounds interesting. Have you been able to load a MBTile from tile-copy?