aprs.fi and Google Maps
Mark Conner N9XTN
Crossposting this from the APRSSIG, since there are so many aprs.fi users here.
73 de Mark N9XTN
Date: Tue, 16 Oct 2018 09:32:36 +0300 (EEST)
From: Heikki Hannikainen <hessu@...>
Subject: [aprssig] aprs.fi and Google Maps API pricing changes, status
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="utf-8"; Format="flowed"
Here's the current status of aprs.fi, Google Maps API pricing, and
As most of you already know, Google bumped up the pricing of the Maps API
significantly this summer, so that aprs.fi would have paid about
4000-5000? (4500-5700 USD) per month to use the fine maps, and assorted
services (superb address search, and a few other goodies). Understandably,
that'd be more than I could pay, and a difficult amount to come up as
donations or subscription fees, every month.
As a contingency plan I made a port of aprs.fi using Leaflet for mapping.
Leaflet can load map tiles from tile servers (or services) which generate
PNG map images from, for example, OSM data. A few individuals and
companies reached out to me and offered to provide access to their tile
servers for PNG OSM maps, either for free, or for a discount. This version
is still running on https://beta.aprs.fi/. It uses Geonames for address
search, which is not that great. Google can actually do proper searching
of street addresses in Finland (or Japan, in Japanese), for example, while
Geonames will only find cities and towns. OSM maps are better than Google
maps in some places in the world, and less good in others.
At the same time I exchanged several emails and some phone calls with
Google's representatives in the sales support, and eventually in the Maps
API team, and explained the situation. The advertisement income for a site
like this is simply nowhere near the Maps API fees; it's on a different
decade, and there are other costs to cover, too.
Google has some programs for nonprofits, crisis response organisations,
news media and startups, but I'm not eligible for any of those options, as
I'm not a registered nonprofit organisation or a growth-mode startup with
venture capital; I'm a one-man-and-a-cat sized private limited company,
which doesn't make practical profit from the web site though. It's just
easier to do the finances and taxes this way, and it helps me do some odd
consulting jobs sometimes. It's a hobby.
Crisis responder organisations (Red Cross, local ARES teams, etc) use
aprs.fi from time to time in some form, but they're only eligible for free
Maps API for up to two months at a time.
In the end, the good folks at Google Maps figured they still would like to
support aprs.fi. They configured additional monthly credits for my billing
account, so that I won't be charged for the time being, and indicated that
a more permanent process/solution would be figured out later.
As the combination of Google Maps, their reliable tile servers, address
search and street view is pretty good, I plan to keep using it as the
primary solution for the time being.
The Leaflet variant does work, and I plan to keep it available, perhaps at
a more permanent address than the current 'beta'. It's also useful for
running separate service instances for different purposes than APRS.
- Hessu, OH7LZB, AF5QT