Important changes to Google Maps API affecting aprs.fi (and others)
Mark Conner N9XTN
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This is a copy of a message posted recently to the APRSSIG e-mail list. Google has implemented a new pricing structure for Google Maps that are negatively affecting services like aprs.fi. The current pricing would result in charges of ~$5000/mo to support aprs.fi's traffic.
Also note that a transition to OSM is not as simple as some believe.
If you are counting on aprs.fi for following ARHABs, you may need to reconsider.
73 de Mark N9XTN
On Wed, 18 Jul 2018, Steve Dimse wrote:
>> Is it just here in Reno that we can't use APRS.FI to see the map?
> I see a map but it greys out with a tiled message saying "for
> development purposes only". It seems to work - just hard to read.
For some time this morning, Google Maps on aprs.fi displayed a pop-up
saying "This page can't load Google Maps correctly". The map tiles
were dark with "For Development Purposes Only" written on them.
This was because of a configuration accident on my part: the aprs.fi
profile on Google Cloud console was not properly linked to the correct
payments profile which has my credit card attached. That's now fixed and
the maps load fine. For a few days (3-5?), starting now.
Due to the volunteer / charitable / non-profit uses in Amateur Radio
circles (SAR, disaster relief, etc) aprs.fi has had a generous free use
limit from Google, even after the pricing went up in 2012. With the recent
pricing model changes for Google Maps APIs, the free use quota got lost,
because they were not automatically migrated in the transformation. It was
a bit uncertain whether it'll stay there or not, but now it's obvious it's
I'm trying to reach out to them and see if it can be reinstated, or if a
generous volume discount can be applied. If someone has insider Google
contacts who are amateur radio operators, please email me and them in
If not, I might be looking at a bill of 4000-5000? ($4500-6000) per month,
which obviously is something that I can't do. The billing has now started,
and I got a small credit for the transition & try-out period, which will
last for a few days, and I can pay the bill for a few more days after
that, but then I'll have to turn it off or quickly migrate away.
To reduce the loads a bit, I'll be disabling the Embedded maps feature
There is a risk that I'll have to replace Google Maps with something, but
it'll be a development effort which will take quite some time, and the end
result might not be quite as smooth; the Google Maps API has been pretty
Remember folks: It's not just about the map graphics - it's the API, and
all the software from Google to load the graphics and draw things on top,
and make them pan and zoom nicely.
- Hessu, OH7LZB
Date: Wed, 18 Jul 2018 13:55:26 +0300 (EEST)
From: Heikki Hannikainen <hessu@...>
Subject: Re: [aprssig] aprs.fi and Google Maps API pricing in July
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=US-ASCII; format=flowed
On Wed, 18 Jul 2018, Heikki Hannikainen wrote:
> There is a risk that I'll have to replace Google Maps with something, but
> it'll be a development effort which will take quite some time, and the end
> result might not be quite as smooth; the Google Maps API has been pretty
And before everyone and their dog yells "Hey, just switch to
OpenStreetMaps, you have that already in the menu right?", please note
When you select the "OSM" option from the current aprs.fi menu, it just
tells Google Maps API to download OSM tiles; that does not stop the paid
use of the Google Maps API.
The Google Maps API has provided quite a few things:
* The source map material (vector maps drawn by people and algorithms,
often purchased from other mapping companies)
* PNG map tiles (the source map material drawn and zoomed and rendered as
small PNG image files), these are what are actually downloaded and
displayed in the web browser
* The tile servers run in Google's cloud, which convert the source map
material to the PNG tiles; the web browser downloads the tiles from these
servers, not aprs.fi!
tiles in the browser, zooming and panning functions, and draws things like
APRS symbol graphics on top, and lines between them, when aprs.fi simply
gives sets of geographical coordinates to the library.
* Address search (what are the coordinates for a street address); need to
use something like Geonames for that, but it won't be half as good as
Google's free text address search
>From OSM you only get the first one, the source vector map material. You
can't simply download map tiles from their tile server all the time (see
it's some work to convert to that.
Then I'll need to download the tiles from somewhere, either from one of
the free or paid tile servers, or perhaps set up my own tile server, which
takes quite some work and plenty of server capacity to run
- see below "Import map data" and "Hardware" headlines).
https://switch2osm.org/ describes the process quite well. It's plenty of
work, but I'll have to look into it.
- Hessu, OH7LZB