RIP OS OpenSpace

Written 11/08/20

OS OpenSpace was Ordnance Survey's first venture into mapping APIs when launched in 2008 and here at the Hug we embraced it and used it to create the still very popular maps.the-hug.net which offers free access to OS 1:50,000 mapping in our GPS mapping application.

The only problem with OS OpenSpace was that they limited you to 65,000 tiles per day after which, if you want to continue to have access, you had to use OS OpenSpace Pro, whose pricing the last time we asked was in the order of £3,000 per year before you even downloaded a single tile (and they also charged you per tile).

For busy sites this was a problem. For example on maps.the-hug.net we blew that limit most days and that was one of the things that lead us to create our own map tile set, now called WayMaps, which we switch maps.the-hug.net users to once they've collectively used up the daily quota. We also use WayMaps to provide map tiles to other sites like Walking Britain and WalkLakes.

Today Ordnance Survey have announced that they're withdrawing the OS OpenSpace API a year from now in August 2021. They're replacing it with their OS Maps API which offers both 1:50,000 and 1:25,000 mapping. That's the good news. The bad news is that this service is now chargeable, at 0.05p per 15 tiles and are only available if you can sign up for their "Premium Plan" in which case they give you 2,000,000 "free" transactions per month.

So how much will a premium plan be? Who knows, we can't find any prices on their web site other than this page which says:

We will be introducing charged Premium Plans later in the year.

So the proposition seems to be: sign up now, spend time updating your software to use our new API, but only later on will we tell you how much you're going to have to pay to continue using it.

For us this means we will probably drop maps.the-hug.net as it has always been provided pro bono and only really made sense if the only incremental cost was our time. Now we would have to pay OS. We estimate that we would use about £100 of tiles per month based on their pricing. How much we would actually pay would depend on how much OS decide to charge for their Premium Plan ... but they're not saying and that's no basis on which to make business decisions.

If you're an OS OpenSpace user, be it free or Pro, you're going to be thinking about what to do for the future too so we would urge you to take a look at our WayMaps tiles and then talk to us about getting access. The tiles are in the same projection as OS, use a WMS tile server which makes migrating your app very easy, and the tiles cover the whole of the British Isles, not just Great Britain, so you can provide mapping for both Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic too.

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