As you may be aware, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the future of the main Freemap site lately and thinking about ways forward. Basically, it’s always been something of a struggle running Freemap on limited resources, and the site suffers from a combination of not enough time spent on it and limitations in server power. Even with the use of kothic-js and server-side caching the rendering can be rather slow and it’s quite a bit of effort maintaining the map data. The other issue is that, with an increased number of OSM-based walking and biking sites, Freemap has less of a niche to fill than it once did.
Consequently, and as a result of feedback gathered on the site, Freemap in its current form will no longer be available from May 1st. That said I have had one or two generous offers of hosting from members of the OSM community but obviously they themselves, like myself are very busy and it depends on them having the time to setup and configure Freemap on their own machines.
I do feel that at this point I do have to address recent criticism of Freemap on the mailing list by an OSM contributor. Yes, it does have a number of limitations, yes it doesn’t cover all the UK, yes it only supports a subset of OSM data – but what people do have to remember is that it is, and always has been, a hobbyist site. For hobbyists. I am not being paid to produce a full-featured site, it’s something I do in my own time, for fun, and for precisely zero – in fact negative, if hosting costs are considered – financial reward. If time and hardware specs allow I will add features and data but at the end of the day, I cannot make any form of guarantee that it will do or feature this, that or the other. Freemap is not the only thing I do in my own time, and it’s not even the only OSM-related project I do in my own time – never mind anything else! That said, my feeling is that unfortunately I feel I have neither the time nor the resources to make significant improvements to Freemap and therefore maybe it’s best to call it a day.
Onto more positive things though and what will take its place? Basically the main problem, apart from time, is the sheer volume of data, and thus I aim to revert the main maps to an earlier experiment in which I combined OS LandForm PANORAMA and Vector Map District data with footpaths from OSM, to basically produce a kind-of Landranger-lite effect. As now I cannot guarantee complete UK coverage, but happily for some, major cities in England probably will be covered. I’m also developing FixMyPaths, fixmypaths.org with the hope of eventually producing a nationwide path-reporting system for councils. There’s also the augmented reality Android stuff too. If I get the time to do all that…. would like to, but as always, no guarantees