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Alternatives to Lonboard

Lonboard vs ipyleaflet

ipyleaflet is a great rendering library for small- and medium-sized datasets. ipyleaflet supports a broad range of data types and formats and gives the user broad control over how to render data.

The downside of ipyleaflet is that it doesn't support large datasets as well. It uses GeoJSON to transfer data to the frontend, which is slow to write, slow to read, and large in transit. Additionally, leaflet's primary goal is not to support very large quantities of data.

Lonboard vs pydeck

Pydeck is a full-featured binding from Python to Pydeck attempts to cover most of the API. It's harder to use binary data transport with pydeck, and similarly to ipyleaflet will usually serialize data to GeoJSON.

Lonboard does not try to cover's full API, but rather has an opinionated approach that nudges users to the fastest rendering for many common use cases.

Why not contribute back to pydeck?

Pydeck and lonboard have very different goals.

A stated goal of pydeck is to be non-opinionated and to allow users with various data sources (GeoJSON strings, URLs to arbitrary data sources, etc.) to render. It makes sense for "official" bindings to be non-opinionated, but lonboard takes an opposite tack. By forcing users to use Arrow, we can get reliably fast performance the very common use case of rendering GeoDataFrames. A downside here is that an Arrow-based implementation has required dependencies that pydeck wouldn't want. pyarrow on the Python side is 90MB on disk. Arrow JS on the JS side is ~200kb, and the default parquet-wasm build is ~1MB.

Pydeck is tightly tied into the JSON renderer, which allows describing a map state fully in JSON. It's not clear how this would work with the JavaScript GeoArrow layers.

Aside from this, pydeck and lonboard use different widget architectures. Pydeck is built on the historical ipywidget layout, using the widget cookiecutter as inspiration and having a separate Jupyter Widget package published to NPM. Lonboard takes a newer approach (unavailable at the time pydeck was created) that uses Anywidget, vastly simplifying the widget process.

Lonboard vs is a JavaScript application focused on presenting a simple, high-level visualization and analysis toolkit to browser-based users. Just like Lonboard, it's built on top of It also has Python bindings via is a very good tool for data analysis and exploration in the browser. On the contrary, Lonboard targets users who plan to do most analysis in Python, but want the best performance to visualize the maximum amount of data. Lonboard should have better rendering performance, but has no user interface to analyze data in the browser. serializes to GeoJSON and uses GeoJSON-like JavaScript objects internally; it therefore has the downside of creating a large text string in Python and serializing that to JavaScript. is great for creating standalone static HTML files containing a dataset, but those files tend to be very large, since they contain embedded GeoJSON.

Lonboard vs datashader

Datashader is a truly scalable rendering library. Datashader will re-render your data from scratch when panning around in a map. This allows datashader to aggregate the source data before rendering. Datashader minimizes the amount of data being rendered and thus, in theory, Datashader should perform well for datasets as large as your computer's memory.

Lonboard is not scalable in the same sense. It doesn't minimize the amount of data being rendered. If you ask to plot a GeoDataFrame with 3 million points, every single one of those points is transferred to the GPU and drawn to your screen. In contrast to Datashader, Lonboard should perform well for datasets whose geometries fit in your computer's GPU memory, which is usually much smaller than your computer's total memory.