Google Maps Engine users recently received an email from Google advising them that the service will be shut down on Jan. 29, 2016. As of this writing, Google had not published an official announcement regarding the impending shutdown of Google Maps Engine (GME). However, CartoDB has announced the availability of the CartoDB on Google Platform, a viable alternative for Google Maps Engine. CartoDB has also been working with Google to provide GME users with ways to smoothly transition from Google Maps Engine to the new CartoDB on Google Platform product.
The letter to Google Maps Engine users does not specifically state the reason for the shutdown of the service. The letter does say, "As an organization, we want to focus our efforts on delivering rich location content via our APIs, and enabling customers to take advantage of the capabilities provided by our Google Cloud Platform products." While GME users have about one year before the service is shut down, many are already searching for viable alternatives. CartoDB on Google Platform was created as an alternative for Google Maps Engine, although there are some differences between the two platforms.
Both platforms feature editors that are powered by underlying APIs and allow users to interact with their hosted data and maps. Google Maps Engine allows developers to access platform functionality using a single REST API. The CartoDB API consists of three separate APIs: Maps API, SQL API and Import API. Each of these APIs provides programmatic access to specific platform functions. The CartoDB Maps API allows applications to generate maps based on data hosted in a CartoDB account. The CartoDB SQL API allows applications to interact with tables and data inside CartoDB, such as inserting, updating or deleting data. The CartoDB Import API can be used to upload files to a CartoDB account, check current account status and perform other account functions.
Google Maps Engine Authentication is based on the Google Authentication system. The Google Maps Engine REST API allows authentication using OAuth with Google ID; this cannot be done with CartoDB APIs. However, CartoDB now gives organizations on enterprise accounts the ability to use Google Authentication for single sign-on and identity management.
The two platforms treat map design somewhat differently; Google Maps Engine uses a unique JSON structure for applying styles to maps, while CartoDB uses CartoCSS for maps styling. CartoDB users can create many types of maps, including bubble, intensity, density, cluster, Torque (animated map) and choropleth.
ProgrammableWeb reached out to Andrew Hill, CSO, scientist at CartoDB, who provided some insight into the new CartoDB on Google Platform. Hill said Google has not provided CartoDB with the total number of Google Maps Engine users, although most Google products have many users. He explained that while the number of GME users potentially transitioning to CartoDB is unknown, the company is not at all concerned about any substantial increase in CartoDB users, website traffic or API calls. Hill explained that the CartoDB infrastructure is highly scalable and can handle just about any load. Twitter already uses CartoDB to create Torque maps that contain billions of data points. A Torque map is a geo-temporal mapping solution invented by CartoDB that shows changes in locational data over time.
Hill also said that CartoDB is providing several ways to help GME users smoothly transition to CartoDB, including programmatic tools to migrate data to CartoDB, third-party data migration tool FME, CartoDB sales engineers who will be available to help users, and a partner network that includes people who are experts on both CartoDB and Google Maps Engine.
While there are some key differences between these two mapping products, transitioning from Google Maps Engine to CartoDB should be fairly easy for most GME users. For more information about the CartoDB map design and publishing platform, visit CartoDB.com.