Why 1:50K is using no longer using Ordnance Survey tiles


Forum » General Forums » Mapping

By TallPaul on 19/12/14 at 11:19am

Many of you use our mapping application to create GPX route1s to load onto your GPS and also to display GPX track2s recorded on your GPS. Previously, if you logged in, it showed you mapping at 1:50K scale using Ordnance Survey mapping tiles however if you have used it recently you will have found that we have switched to using our OpenMaps tiles for 1:50K scale mapping and that only 1:25K scale still uses Ordnance Survey mapping tiles.

We have done this because the ever growing popularity of our application means that at the current rate of usage we are going to run out of free tiles well before end of the current annual licence from Bing which expires on 5th October 2015. We estimate that if we did nothing we would run out of tiles by mid March 2015!

As you will appreciate just stopping using 1:50K scale tiles is not enough as it's only one third of the tiles we take from Bing, who also supply our aerial photography as well as the 1:25K scale tiles.

The only solution we can see would be to buy tiles from Bing and given how little income the application currently generates, as users don't buy our merchandise and very few use our advertisers, we are now wondering how we can afford to do that. So the bottom line is that the current application with Ordnance Survey 1:50K & 1:25K tiles and aerial photography is not sustainable and unless we can find a solution we're going to have to turn it off in a couple of months.

So if you have any thoughts as to how we could avoid doing that please post them here.

  1. A route describes where you are intending to go, point by point. For more information click here.
  2. A track records where you have been and when you were there. For more information click here.

By TallPaul on 22/12/14 at 12:02pm

As you can see there have been no comments at all to this post, although we did also tweet about it on both @WalkLakes and @Open_Maps.

So, having looked at the figures we were getting back from Bing and looked at our tile logs where it became clear that a small minority of users were using the vast majority of the tiles, we have reluctantly decided to impose a quota of 1,000 Bing tiles per day on each user.

We are now waiting to see both what percentage of users this change affects and what effect it has on our overall usage with Bing.


By rockhopper on 24/12/14 at 10:46pm

Being a non tweeter and having been busy with Christmas stuff, apologies but have only just seen this now. I suspect one solution is to set up a subscription only service but the take up may be low to none. Many, including me, probably wouldn't know the level of costs involved. Failing that, I think you just take the action you deem appropriate as you're site admin - if it means reducing access and/or limiting tiles then users need to accept that they can't continue to get something for nothing. It has struck me as odd that two hills based websites which are mainly Scottish based are used frequently yet this site while offering similar facilities has rather lower levels of throughput - no idea why given how much this site has to offer. In saying that, one of the Scottish sites doesn't have a mapping facility - while the other does have a mapping facility, it also doesn't use OS for 1:50,000. Hope this helps - cheers :)


By TallPaul on 25/12/14 at 11:25am

Being a non tweeter and having been busy with Christmas stuff, apologies but have only just seen this now. I suspect one solution is to set up a subscription only service but the take up may be low to none. Many, including me, probably wouldn't know the level of costs involved. Failing that, I think you just take the action you deem appropriate as you're site admin - if it means reducing access and/or limiting tiles then users need to accept that they can't continue to get something for nothing. It has struck me as odd that two hills based websites which are mainly Scottish based are used frequently yet this site while offering similar facilities has rather lower levels of throughput - no idea why given how much this site has to offer. In saying that, one of the Scottish sites doesn't have a mapping facility - while the other does have a mapping facility, it also doesn't use OS for 1:50,000. Hope this helps - cheers :)

Hi rockhopper, thanks for the reply. Let me try to answer some of your points as best I can:

  1. subscription only service - we've thought about that but the problem is that the free tile providers, like Bing and OS Open Space, won't let you do that if you're using their free tiles, they want paying (which is fair enough), the problem is that they want paying quite a lot. For the Ordnance Survey for example the absolute minimum is over £3,000pa and that's if you use no tiles at all as they have a minimum monthly charge. So if this was going to work we would need a lot of subscribers. Now the problem is that the well has been well and truly poisoned by the free tile providers themselves because by giving away the tiles it's lead to a proliferation of relatively low volume (in terms of users) free mapping sites, like our own historically, and also our friends Paul and Helen who you politely avoided naming in your post (who do pay the Ordnance Survey for 1:25K tiles but don't charge users, so it's still effectively free). But my point is that all of these sites are offering free mapping. So why would anyone pay?

  2. doesn't use OS for 1:50,000 - indeed, and until 19th December we were offering 1:25K and 1:50K Ordnance Survey tiles. Plus of course we still have aerial photography which we think is the most useful thing of all when planning a walk when used alongside 1:25K. So we have succeeded in attracting quite a lot of map users, but they don't use the forum.

  3. lower levels of throughput - I'm assuming you're talking about on the forum? One of the big problem with forums is bootstrapping as that unfortunately the answer to the question "how do I have a successful forum?" is "have a successful forum" i.e. until people see other people posting they don't post.

I also think we've come into the game at a bad time as Facebook (in particular) but some other social media too have changed people's expectations of how easy it should be to post to a community. Posting here well requires some fiddling about, especially if you want to post photos.

And where's that "Like" button? I'm not kidding.

I don't have any answers to all of this at the moment mind you :(

So, to bring you, and anyone else reading this thread up to date, we are still struggling with the levels of tile use, even after imposing quotas.

We are wondering about only enabling 1:50/1:25K/aerial photography for the Lake District but that would screw up people like you who do actually contribute to the forum so I'm wondering if we might be able to be smarter and somehow link forum behaviour to full access to mapping anywhere in the UK.

P.S. Oh yes, and a Happy Christmas to you too ;)


By sussex53 on 30/12/14 at 3:43pm

Hi TallPaul, Wanted to add to your topic on free mapping software with observations based on my experience. I have used OS Getamap' irregularly, as a guest only, with no subscription paid,Walkhighlands' site very regularly, Where's the path' site very regularly andThe Hug' and Bikehike' sites occasionally. The frequency with which I use each site depends entirely on the level of functions offered and the availability of the service - some sites run out of or restrict the number of tiles available. Your ownWalklakes' site is my favourite and definitely offers the greatest range of functions of them all so as a regular user I should be very sorry to see the range of functions being curtailed, restricted or withdrawn altogether. So, there are several free mapping software sites currently available, all very good in their own rights, there may well be others I am not aware of out there! The method of working before such free on-line sites was to purchase an electronic map or maps from Anquet, Quo or MemoryMap. These are excellent but can prove quite expensive when purchasing maps for different areas, but the concept is no different than buying a paper or laminated map. Maps also date whereas on-line mapping is usually maintained up-to-date. Would a way forward for you be to copy the concept of credits' as per thego4awalk' website whereby you register as a subscriber, purchase a number of credits and spend them as you use the site; 1 credit for a .gpx file download, 1 credit for a route plot download, etc. Their current offer is £24.95 for 200 credits which equates to 12.4p per credit. I do however confess to not knowing exactly how this could work with Walklakes'! I appreciate that the cost of paying for server space for all the computing power your site must use must be huge. The question to which I do not know the answer is how many current users would abandon your site in favour of free sites were you to introduce a charge. The OS charged around £30 for an annual subscription whenGetamap' was first introduced, this has fallen considerably, perhaps because they were not getting the uptake because of the high original cost. One could not really say that an annual subscription at £19.99 is expensive - it equates to 38.4p per week or ½p per day so considerably cheaper than go4awalk'! If you're not getting enoughclick throughs' to income generating websites to continue to run the service in its present form I appreciate that something will have to give which would be a great shame for those of us who really value the application. As you yourself say having satellite imagery plus 1:25,000 mapping is the gold standard and restricting this only to the Lakes area would be very sad. Hope you find a solution to suit everyone! ;)


By TallPaul on 30/12/14 at 10:47pm

Thanks for your reply. It's good to hear from another user. We can see from the daily logs that the site is being (very) actively used but no one is talking to us which makes it hard to know what people want.

I have today emailed Bing to ask them how much they would want if we switched to a paid for model, but I'm not holding my breath. I think your observation about the fall in price for OS 'Getamap' is probably indicative: as I said before it's very difficult to get people to pay as sadly that well has been poisoned by the free tile providers.



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