Major MapBox Investments Coming In 2012


6 min read

We could not be more excited to kick off 2012. This year will be huge for us in nearly every way as we further grow the MapBox platform to let anyone make fast, beautiful, interactive web maps using their own data. We’ve expanded our team with some amazing new talent and put together an incredible roadmap of new features and services. This year we will release TileMill on Windows, enable live updates for maps, produce beautiful world maps using the best open data available from OpenStreetMap and other public sources, and ship a blazingly fast hardware appliance for power users. After a year of rapid development and expansion, MapBox is a faster, more beautiful, and well priced alternative to traditional web mapping services.

Staying focused on speed and beautiful design

Speed and beautiful design are at the heart of MapBox. Beautiful maps start with a flexible, easy to use design studio. TileMill is cartography for the web, from the ground up. Working with familiar CSS-like styling and a layers interface, TileMill lets you produce completely custom world maps, highly-detailed street maps, geographic data visualizations, and everything in between. MapBox maps made with TileMill can show custom styles or data for each zoom level and have interactive overlays and actions. This year, we will finish TileMill 1.0 to stabilize new features with an extensible plug-in system.

In addition to great design, speed and usability are essential to successful web maps. MapBox Hosting is like YouTube for maps with deep level application integration. Your maps are sharable by URL or embed code. We have an advanced API to integrate your maps with any website or application. You can stack up layers of maps to create a composite — this makes it really easy to add on your custom data layer of shaded areas or location points on top of a pre-made base map. We provide detailed analytics on how and when your maps are being viewed. And all of this is built into an ultra-fast, highly-available, and scalable cloud hosting environment.

For offline map use, we have a free iPad app so you can take your maps with you, whether you need to work in areas without connectivity or just want a really elegant presentation tool.

This is the core MapBox platform. Design, share, and interact with fast, beautiful custom web maps. We believe that the web is meant to be interactive and maps should be immersive and unique, not static or stock.

We appreciate greatly the support of our clients in this first year too, many of whom share their maps publicly on MapBox Hosting.

Big investment plans for 2012

In the first half of this new year, MapBox will further scale investing in the core platform and deliver several new features and services that shatter the standards of web mapping.

TileMill for Windows

Just two months ago, after Node.js added native Windows support, we started testing and porting TileMill to a native Windows application. We plan to release a beta version this quarter. Having TileMill as a one click installer for Windows will dramatically grow our base of users. We have staffed up in the past two months to help support the influx of new mappers, and are spending January doing a clean-up and rewrite of our core documentation. We are thrilled to open MapBox to PC users. If you are interested in testing out TileMill on Windows, sign up to be notified as soon as we launch!

Live map updates

Part of the reason MapBox maps are so fast is that they store all of the geographic data in their final format. We have been carefully developing a way to preserve this speed while allowing changes in data to automatically update maps. We are close to launching on demand map updates on the MapBox platform. From being able to detect changes in a Google spreadsheet to querying databases and APIs, we will be releasing a new version of TileMill that lets you plug into more remote data sources and upload the updated maps directly to your MapBox Hosting account when data changes. Again, all of this is going to happen in TileMill and will be a simple add on service to our existing hosting plans. We are still working out pricing, but plan on this being affordable enough for small NGOs and scalable for large sites that we hope will start hosting with MapBox. Sign up for the newsletter to hear the latest and be an early TileMill tester when we launch.

Custom world maps

We want MapBox to be the best option for organizations seeking an alternative to Google Maps and its new and expensive usage fees. We already offer faster maps with radically flexible design control. To close the last gap, we are currently designing several global base layers all using OpenStreetMap and other open data. We are specifically targeting media organizations, which have highly integrated Google Maps in their websites, but anyone will be able to leverage these maps. Designing custom OSM base maps is not an original idea, and there are clearly more and more beautiful base maps coming out each day. Awesome companies like MapQuest are already aggressively playing in this space, offering no preset limits on their free API, which we already make available in MapBox Hosting’s street level map feature. We are focused on design flexibility and making it easier for people to work with this data in a performant way. We will be blogging more details about this in the coming weeks and will share some of our designs then. If you are thinking about switching from Google maps and want an early preview of where we are going, please email us at [email protected] to set up a time to talk.

Hardware for power users

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Built for speed and designed for helping teams collaborate, the MapBox Appliance is a fully supported, pre-configured map generation and sharing server. It’s designed for a range of use-cases — from powering teams in an office working on large projects in need of the fastest map generation possible, to field sites in need of a portable appliance for mapping on-the-ground with low or no internet connectivity.

We will blog more details later this month, when we plan on sharing the first designs publicly. Once we publish final support and pricing options, we will start taking pre-orders for shipping in April.

Creative, disruptive mapping

MapBox’s ultimate goal is to build a sustainable space for being creatively disruptive. Further development on TileMill and MapBox Hosting, shipping hardware, and maintaining dynamic world base layers are all huge undertakings, and together they will blow the doors off of the web mapping space. We could not be happier with the progress we’ve made over the last year building the MapBox platform. We can’t wait to begin work on these new initiatives and look forward to seeing the ground-breaking new visualizations our clients create this year.

To learn more about MapBox take the tour, follow us on Twitter @MapBox, and sign up to our email newsletter for updates every few weeks.

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