What happened to Google Maps

May 12, 2018

A short time ago Google announced forthcoming changes to its map and related APIs that Furkot heavily relies upon. The most important change is a radical price increase: Google decided to raise the prices tenfold and decrease its free service quotas by 90%.

This is a work in progress. Expect updates as we make changes to Furkot features.

Until now Google's pricing policy made it possible for us to offer Furkot free of charge. The change in pricing means that we are expected to pay about 20 times more than before. Sadly, there is no way we can absorb that much of a cost increase. And since we want to continue offering free access to Furkot, we have no choice but to stop using Google mapping API at this time.

Furkot has been employing Google mapping API to implement the following features, all of which are either switching to a different provider, or are temporarily suspended:

We realize those changes may result in a decrease of Furkot functionality for some period of time. We apologize for the inconvenience. Rest assured we will continue to look for alternatives either using third party services or developing in-house solutions.

Road map

Road map provided by Google Maps Script API is replaced by OpenStreetMap. This is the same map that have been available in Furkot for some time as alternate and offline map. This change covers maps displayed by Published tripshot and Ask for advice board as well.

Street view

Street view is an integral part of Google map and is beeing suspended until we find a cost effective way of supporting it again.

Satellite imagery

While Google provides excellent satellite imagery, there are other sources and we'll work to find a suitable vendor to bring back this feature.

Terrain features (topo map)

We are temporarily suspending a topo map and plan to bring the feature back powered by a different mapping supplier. We hope to find a solution that is better than the one that Google provides.

Routing engine

Routing engine is a workhorse of Furkot. We have been predominantly relying on Google Directions API in this respect but had supplemented its functionality by a selection of others - GraphHopper, MapQuest and OSRM - employed for alternate and seasonally closed routes. We are phasing out Google routing engine and bring the others options to the fore.

While we are trying to keep currently supported routing options (avoid highways and tolls) and travel modes (biking and pedestrian in addition to motorized traffic) in place, selecting a new engine may require us to change routing settings. We are using this opportunity to improve routing over seasonally closed roads.

Furkot's alternate routes could be used to display routes different from those offered by Google Directions API. With the change of the main routing engine we are temporarily suspending this feature. Once we are satisfied that our new routing engine can reliably support different alternate and the primary routes we will re-enable it.

Google Directions API was fast enough to allow Furkot to display potential routes in real time when dragging stops and route points. The replacements we are evaluating do not guarantee smooth experience in all cases. We are suspending this feature temporarily. You will still be able to drag routes and stops, but Furkot will display a new route only after you drop a dragged stop or a route point.

Geocoding

Google Geocoding API allowed us to convert textual address to geographic coordinates and vice-versa. Luckily there are services specializing solely in geocoding at very reasonable prices. We are looking at following vendors as potential replacements: OpenCage Geocoder, LocationIQ, geocode.earth, geocodio.

Text search / autocomplete

Furkot was using Google Autocomplete functionality to aid editing stop names and addresses and also in search bar in Ask for advice board. We are looking at Algolia Places as a replacement and hope to avoid interruption.

Stop elevation / route elevation profile

We are considering Open-Elevation as a replacement for Google Elevation API used to display elevation of stops and route elevation profiles.

Campgrounds and hotels

Google Places API used to have a generous free limit of 150,000 requests a day. Furkot was using it to supplement its offering of campgrounds and independent hotels, especially in places where our lodging partners fell short.

We are discontinuing Google as a middleman for campgrounds and independent hotels and are working on broadening our selection by striking new direct partnerships.

Restaurants

We are also seeking new partnerships to display restaurants provided until now by Google Places API.

Trip map thumbnails

Trip map thumbnails displayed in the My Trips list are small renderings of trip map. The current implementation is based on Google Maps Static API which allow embedding image representation of maps in a webpage. While there are vendors supplying a comparable technology, we believe it may be a good opportunity to implement an alternative representation (short description or photo) in addition to small map.

Print map and directions

We are temporarily disabling both options and we will consider bringing them back at a later date.