The Geocaching Blog


New Geocaching.com Maps

Eric Schudiske on February 14, 2012, 10:40 am

281 Comments | Permalink

Lackeys | Milestones

We are the .35%

A few months ago, Google announced a change to its Maps API licensing structure that requires third-party websites with over 25,000 map loads per day to pay for use of the API. (Visit Google for more details on their pricing structure.) According to Google the new limits should affect only around .35% of maps consumers. Geocaching.com averages about 2,000,000 map loads per day, placing us firmly within that small percentage of affected consumers.

After discussing available options, we made the difficult decision to reduce our reliance on Google Maps and take steps to better integrate Leaflet and OpenStreetMap. This decision was based, in large part, on our ability to bear the very significant cost of licensing Google maps given our high rate of consumption. It was also based on the advantage we gain in many ways using new tools that allow us to grow our technology and the service we provide.

OpenStreetMap Benefits – Enter the Rainbows

and Unicorns

Creative Commons, Community Driven, Constantly Updated

OpenStreetMap is freely and publicly editable in a similar way as Wikipedia. Anyone can change or add to the maps and thousands of people worldwide contribute on a regular basis. As a result, the maps are constantly improving, and as a community we can grow the map database while we geocache.

What happens when a large number of passionate people pull in the same direction? Well, geocaching, for one. Our passionate community grew this hobby from one geocache to more than 1.6 million.

OSM Maps are Good

While OpenStreetMap is known widely in Europe, much of the rest of the world is unfamiliar with the mapping software. OSM maps accurately represent location, not only at the street level but also at the level of buildings and infrastructure. Even walking paths in many parks are included. Here is one comparison showing the level of detail provided.

Google Map of Discovery Park

OpenStreetMap of Discovery Park

*Note the dotted-line trails depicted in the OpenStreetMap example. These are hiking trails contributed by Open Street Maps users and are refined on a continuous basis.

New features

Leaflet, the lightweight JavaScript library for tile-based interactive maps, is replacing our current Google implementation. It provides us with more flexibility to offer features that previously had not been possible.  Including:

  • Support for tablets like the iPad and other mobile devices
  • Display of only the caches in a Pocket Query instead of all caches at once
  • Faster tooltips, at any zoom level

We also intend to build out our own tile server in the future which will speed up the loading of map tiles enormously.

Moving Forward

We remain committed to providing great mapping resources to our customers and believe that both the global geocaching community and our website benefit from this change. With ongoing innovation and new technologies being developed every day, geocaching will continue to evolve.

We have certainly come along way. Here is a glimpse of our old maps (circa 2005):

Oh the horror!

You can check out the new maps here.

  • Nonya

    Sorry, it would be $1 for 250 hits.  Either way, let us pay for it if we want it.

  • Pserine

    No other alternative? How about this: Free Basic membership for your first ,say, 100 caches, then Premium membership is required. If a member is not sure if they like geocaching after 100 caches, then they’ll never know. OSM maps for basic members and Google maps as a premium member only item. One more Premium “carrot” like pocket querys and e-mail alerts.
    If you want us to believe you run GC as a business, then run it like a for-profit business and give your paying customers more value than the basic members that do nothing to support the profit end of the business and in fact are the reason paying Premium members have to now settle for Basic mapping.

  • John Goulden (Premium Member)

    It’s not that OSM maps are “good” or “bad.” The problem is functionality. I’m still waiting ninety seconds to load map tiles, and that’s ninety seconds every time I pan or zoom. Which admittedly is an improvement over the three- to five-minute lag of a few days ago. But sat imagery often don’t load at all, and when it does it’s of such poor quality that you can’t really use it. And on top of that the new map web page no longer provides a list of caches. Worst of all, you no longer have anything that works in iPad browsers (where Original Maps worked just fine, but Maps Beta never did and the new maps don’t either). Geocaching is a mobile hobby, and you no longer support mobile devices. How did that happen? I’m sitting in my office pretending to do my job but I’m actually printing off hard copy of cache info and Google Earth images for an upcoming road trip because I can’t geocache with the iPad any more. Caching with paper, in the Twenty-First Century? Oh, brother. As an interim solution you ought to make your $10 geo app free to premium members.

    The Two Mortal Sins of IT are (a) don’t take features away from your users and (b) don’t provide features that don’t work. Y’all managed ‘em both. No wonder your users are angry! And this one is angry enough that if you can’t provide the basic functionality we once had by renewal time, I probably won’t.

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  • disenchanted

    this has taken all the fun out of caching.  learning mapping, observing landmarks are all gone.  the graphic maps lack detail, like clumps of trees and park benches, and the aerial takes forever if ever.  kids can’t learn anything based on the new system except patience which is inherently not a strength of kids

  • Elias Santiago

    Do OSM have a legend that indicates what are the dotted red lines, colored shading and etc. ??

  • hansolo77

    2 Words: THIS SUCKS!!!! Period!

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  • Robert Spencer

    I have an observation.  On an individual cache page there is a “View Dynamic Map” map option.  If selected a “Satellite” option becomes available which if selected can then be zoomed it to see a very clear view of the cache location.  This satellite option does not appear to be available on the Geocaching Home page “Map this Location” tap.  Only a “MapQuest Areial” is available.  Question why isn’t the Satellite view option available?  

  • Bill Ziobro

    I was wondering this as well

  • Bill Ziobro

    I will have to admit, I thought at first I would be open to the thought of open source mapping but it is terrible.  Bring back google maps please.  

  • DrScott

    MapQuest tiles are currently not really the best choice for the default: Ways of type ‘track’ – which are rather important for geocachers – are not rendered. Just compare with tiles of OSM Mapnik.

  • Robert Tristram

    You must be having a laugh!
    I challenge you to look at the ‘new’ topo maps or satellite pictures of New Zealand and compare them to the ones that are no longer offered (ie, go to the Google web site). You’ll now seee that New Zealand doesn’t exist.

  • http://twitter.com/AP1618 Aravinda P

    I really miss the google maps. the new maps dont load right…, sometimes holes in the tiles… 
    especially the satellite images are different from google maps now its hard to make comparisons…! 

  • Wanderingwells

    Never commented here before – but felt the need – so so so disappointed – OSM is OK here in the UK and is no means complete – but in no way shape or other EVER can make up for the lack of quality aerial photography.  I have had to resort to opening the aerial photography which remains on each cache page ! and I suspect this will soon be gone too.  Others have sort ways around this – but my IT skills don’t run to this nor do my ethics – I would be more than happy to pay more for my premium membership to have the google images back.. a grumpy UK cacher

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1328007134 Mike Huska

    Ugh!  I would happily pay $35 for my premium membership to get Google Maps back as theothers just work that well and I depend upon the Ariel  view for urban caches.  Seems like I read GroundSpeak hasn’t raised their price of $30 since it started.  I hate prices increases but maybe it’s time?

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  • chitza

    I had to get used to the new maps, but they are OK. There is only one thing I’m missing in the new maps – they don’t come with a scale !! Will this be incorporated some time (the original OSM I guess do have a scale on them)….

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  • Michael Cameron

    So I have been away from Geocaching for some time and just got back in.  The new maps are…not great.  For rural areas in Canada (like near my parents’ – part of the reason I got back in is I am planning visit them shortly and I wanted to see what’s around their place now…) there is nothing other than the main highway.  There are tonnes of smaller roads that I now can’t see.  For navigating these areas it was crucial to actually be able to see the roads as I don’t know anything about the area and roads tend to stop and start at different places depending on the ownership history of the farms.

    Wish I had known that before I re-upped my Premium Membership.

    (sigh)

  • wasabiicecream

    Does anyone know how to turn on satellite view on OpenStreetMap? I’ve been using the satellite view on Google Maps to find the caches, and now I can’t find the option anywhere on these new maps. I wish we had Google Maps back ;-(

  • rel00p

    give us back google maps please!
    at least for premium members

  • Onebadgtz

    Not at all enjoying the new maps, and with satellite (mapquest areial) view not in Toronto or Petawawa Ontario areas?? what will go next on the website???

  • Martin Breault

    What I’m noticing now is that none of the maps (MapQuest, CloudMade, OpenStreet) have accurate street representation of the province I live in. With the exception of the main roads, every town and city have errors. Some streets and topology are even missing entirely. 

  • GeocacheGeek

    Wow, talk about taking the Map This Location feature from incredibly useful to completely useless.  

  • M1911a1 45acp

     Hate it, cache icons are disapperaing on their own a there is no way to refresh them, the map becomes a blind map.

  • mvsopen

    The current replacement maps are pretty much worthless in the California desert. Most of the streets/trails are not named on these new maps. Can we please work out some way to restore Google maps? Without them, we really can’t find the routes to the caches we need.


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