Open Source Mapping

An embedded map of Trondheim Fjord, Norway, showing the location of Cliff Cottage. It was made using an OSM (OpenStreetMap) plugin, in the WordPress program, used to make this weblog.

While I might have included a screen shot or image to display a map, a more flexible approach is to embed one. This requires adding a mapping plugin to the WordPress program that I currently use. Since there are so many plugins available, I have to decide which one to use. I’m using one that is open source to make a policy statement!

It all started with this item in /. ( https://slashdot.org/ )

Background theory: A factoid from Economics 101 – perfect competition leads to Pareto optimality, which is just a fancy way of saying that businesses that compete will stagnate. There is no way for any of them to make any profits. Ultimately, a little mistake will lead to bankruptcy. So businesses will do almost anything to avoid competition. They want monopolies or,  if that isn’t possible, a large market share, so they can charge whatever consumers will pay, to make lots of money.

Background event: As explained in the /. article, on 2018-07-16, the free ride of using Google Maps’ application programming interface (API) is over. Google is going to make it more difficult and expensive to use its API. The good news (for Google) is that they should be able to extract more revenue from users. The bad news (for organizations and people using these APIs) is that custom maps will be less sustainable or even unfeasible for organizations that made them. See: https://developers.google.com/maps/billing/important-updates

When a company makes programs that are high quality and free, people will use them. Google Maps is no exception. Thus, the most popular WordPress mapping plugins are (with the number of active installations in parentheses, from largest to smallest): WP Google Maps (400 000+ ); Google Maps Widget (100 000+); MapPress Easy Google Maps (100 000+); WP Google Map Plugin (100 000+); Google Maps plugin by Intergeo (60 000+); Snazzy Maps (60 000+); Google Maps Easy (40 000+); Simple Map (40 000+).  All of these plugins relate to Google Maps. It is only when one gets to Leaflet Map Marker (30 000+) that an alternative to Google Maps can be found that works with OpenStreetMaps and Bing Maps, as well as Google Maps.

Consequences: People who need a map, but don’t know how to program, and don’t have a budget to pay for a customized solution, have been able to make maps using Google (or equivalent) APIs. Google’s actions are part of a trend away from easy access to free mapping tools. Fewer companies are offering free accounts and there are fewer alternatives to Google.

Open source API choices to replace Google Maps APIs include Leaflet and OpenLayers.

Leaflet is an open-source JavaScript library for desktop and mobile platform interactive maps. The API code is small, 38 kB,  but has most mapping features needed by developers. It can be extended with plugins. Its focus is on the optimal performance of basic mapping features, rather than on an extensive features rich environment. See: https://leafletjs.com

In contrast OpenLayers is much more extensive, and larger (10 MB) requiring greater insight.  See: http://openlayers.org

Mapzen, often cited as a third open soure tool that ran on OpenStreetMaps, shut down its operations at the beginning of 2018.

For me, open source matters, so I chose to add on OSM – OpenStreetMaps, as a plugin. It took a couple of minutes to download the plugin, and up to several seconds to activate it. Here is the entire procedure:

Select Generate: OSM shortcode

Select the OSM control theme of your choice

Adjust the map and click into the map to generate the OSM shortcode

Copy (Ctrl+C) the generated shortcode and paste (Ctrl+V) it into your article or page.

Notes: The generator was located immediately below the WordPress text frame; Once the map was pasted into the text, the preview button had to be pressed to show the map. The only thing left to do is to publish the post!

 

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