It’s been a busy year here at Thunderforest HQ. We rolled out our API Keys to all of our existing customers, which was a timeconsuming-but-necessary task. We’ve also finished a range of software upgrades and infrastructure work, and running a growing and profitable small business doesn’t leave much spare time each week. So while it might have seemed quiet from our blog, there’s been a lot of work going on!

Towards the end of 2017 my focus has returned to technical work on our vector tiles. I initially created these in order to power our own in-house styles, as well as making it easier to create custom map styles for our customers. They’ve proven their worth over the last few years for our internal needs, but our vector tiles are increasing being used by our customers over-the-air, with the final rendering happening on client devices. One example is the Bike Hub Cycle Journey planner iOS app, which renders our vector tiles with a custom style, in addition to our regular map tiles.

With this in mind, I’ve been redesigning some aspects of our vector tilesets to make life easier for on-device rendering. As an example, in our first generation tilesets we have a separate layers for oceans at low zoom levels. Since this is just an artefact of how the maps were generated years ago, it makes sense now to revisit and combine the two ocean layers into one. Similarly, we’ve revisited how our contour lines are generated, and combined them with the layer used for elevation colouring. And there’s a whole list of additional points of interest, landuse types, boundaries and road and path attributes that I’m adding, based both on requests from our customers, and also features that I want to add to our own in-house maps. On reflection, I’ve been overly ambitious with my wishlist for the next release, and I could have broken down the project into a couple of smaller releases. But we’re getting very close now and it’ll all be worth it!

In the meantime, our first-generation vector tilesets are available for immediate use - served from the same high-performance infrastructure as all of our other maps. Sign up for your Thunderforest account today to get started.