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Mapbox, once touted as the opensource competitor to Google Maps, is no longer free

Stewart Berry Dan Martin

Author: Stewart Berry
Images: Dan Martin

Mapbox GL JS is no longer free, as of December 8th, 2020. Mapbox announced that they were moving their Mapbox GL JS library from a BSD license to a new more commercial license.

While superseded by their latest release, Mapbox are not deleting version 1 from the Internet, and so developers can still access it. The documentation also remains opensource, as well as many of their other libraries. They are also still offering a certain number of free map loads to get developers up and running.

For websites such as Twitter, Foursquare, the New York Times, the Financial Times, Lonely Planet, The Weather Channel, and Snapchat, Mapbox provided the underlying mapping technology and data. Since 2010, as a reaction to the limited choice offered by map providers such as Google Maps, the niche of custom maps has rapidly expanded. Mapbox was a major contributor to the opensource mapping movement but is now making significant changes to its pricing model.

There has not been much press about the price change from Mapbox, and it is mentioned only in passing in their v2 announcement blog post, with a short reference to the license modification within the main discussion on new 3D features.

In 2009 Eric Gundersen started building what would become the very popular Mapbox alternative to Google Maps, that has over a million registered users, broad mainstream visibility of their maps, hundreds of millions in investment, and an even higher valuation.

Mapbox allows you to pick and choose elements to build custom designed maps, with their APIs and SDKs acting as the building blocks that can integrate location into a mobile or web application. For example, Caliper's Maptitude is a location-intelligence offering that makes use of the Mapbox technology for its online sharing platform extension to its popular Maptitude mapping software (or geographic information system). For those looking to access an actively maintained version of the Mapbox platform, for sharing, visualizing, and analyzing maps, then the Maptitude platform is an attractive commercial option.

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