Ending Layer Licensing
CalTopo has always made its map layers available to other apps and websites, but we’ve decided it’s time to phase that out. Our slope angle shading layer will no longer be available outside of CalTopo on Oct 1, with all other layers no longer available in other apps and sites in January 2021. We know that this will inconvenience some of our customers who also use other apps, so we wanted to take a minute to explain our decision.
What does that mean for users come October 1 or January 2021? If you’re used to using the CalTopo slope angle shading, topographic maps, or other layers outside of the CalTopo website and app, you will no longer be able to do so as of these dates. The only way to access CalTopo layers and maps will be in the CalTopo app and on the CalTopo website.
There are three major reasons we’re doing this:
* Improve our ability to develop new layers. As we look to expand internationally, we will increasingly be incorporating proprietary datasets that we need to license. There is no way we can seamlessly incorporate proprietary data into our existing tilesets, while continuing to license those tilesets to other users. Maintaining a stable API also hinders our ability to make technical improvements such as switching to 512 pixel tiles.
* Cost control. While layer licensing generates some revenue, maintaining a public endpoint is also costly – CalTopo spends thousands of dollars a month on bandwidth alone. We recently discovered that a much larger company was driving those costs up by using our tileset without permission, and had to go multiple rounds with an attorney to get them to stop. It will be easier for us to implement technical measures to block unauthorized use if we do not also need to support licensed use.
* Control of our brand. Only a portion of CalTopo’s layer set is available for licensing, and over time many of the pre-rendered, licensed layers have diverged from what is available on CalTopo. For example, the slope angle shading on CalTopo has greatly improved in both coverage and accuracy compared to the version that we license out, and because we render it on the fly, there’s no scalable way to give other apps access. This has been an ongoing source of confusion, and it’s been difficult to explain clearly how XYZ app “has some CalTopo layers, but not all, and the ones they do have don’t fully match ours”.
In order to make for a smooth transition, we’ve given apps that license our layers significant advanced notice, so that they have time to find or create alternate tilesets. CalTopo has always had a generous free use policy, and we intend to continue allowing free noncommercial use of our tilesets going forward – with the caveat that such use is a secondary consideration, so there may be short-notice changes that free users will need to adapt to.
Wow! This is a huge change. Does this mean that apps like Backcountry Navigator and Gaia GPS will have to drop the CalTopo topographic (USGS topo, etc.) layer?
That’s correct we won’t continue to license any of our layers.
I use backcountry navigator pro heavily, and I also have a Caltopo Pro subscription. Will there be a method to load caltopo maps into backcountry navigator pro in the future?
I know I have access to your app also with my pro account. However Backcountry handles large datasets, caltopo doesn’t like having > 1000 markers, and lots of tracks on a single map. Backcountry Navigator handles this easily.
You’ll be able to export GPX and KML files still and import them into any application but that will not include base maps. The base maps that CalTopo creates will only be on CalTopo going forward.
Hi Geoff, we don’t anticipate this will impact Gaia GPS. We’ll have replacement/improved maps for all of the layers before the sunset, built from source data. Some of the layers have already been updated.
Will we still be able to iframe / embed maps into our website?
Yup, the maps within those are hosted from our site. Nothing changing with any of the CalTopo features on the CalTopo website.
Fantastic, great news. I encourage CalTopo to continue to prioritize features and services paying CalTopo customers, and to find more ways to encourage more people to become paying CalTopo customers! I’d love to see CalTopo provide more features and services to paying CalTopo customers, compared to free CalTopo customers.
Will the Google Earth network link integration be affected?
Not at all, intergration as a layer on Earth Pro is a feature of our subscription and that will continue.
Sad news. That means no way to use your maps in an application like Back Country Navigator. SAD SAD day. I guess it is what it is but I am furious with this decision. Perhaps you just want to kill apps like BCNAV, Hopefully other map sources will handle this.
If you would create a navigation app like BCNAVXE then it would not be such a devastating change.
Sorry to hear that this is a frustrating change. Our intent is highlighted above in the post. We are continuing to provide our mapping layers directly within the CalTopo app for Android and iOS as well as on our website, however it is no longer feasible for us to license them.
I noticed I can no longer get certain layers on my iPad app, such as Google Map or Satellite. Is this a Google vs Apple thing?
No Google layers have ever been available in our app due to Google’s licensing restrictions. We offer Global Satellite Imagery coverage however.
Caltopo in Backcountry Navigator was great. But if I have to choose, I’m tied to Backcountry Navigator. I wish the Caltopo tileset could be made available somehow.
Boo! Big thumbs down! This change forces me to drop my subscription for Backcountry Navigator Pro because none of their maps provide enough detail in British Columbia except for CalTopo. The Caltopo app is not featured enough for a in-field trip planner and navigation system like Backcountry Navigator Pro and Gaia GPS. Gaia has enough detail in their proprietary topo system for me to work with.
Sorry you feel that way. We offer a pretty full featured app if you haven’t given it a try we highly recommend trying it (free) and seeing if you like it.
I run the Canadian Mountain Encyclopedia last 20 years and we recommend Backcountry Navigator specifically because it has the scanned 1:50,000 CanMatrix maps. Is there any way for them to pay you to get these maps? Or for anyone to pay somebody to get these maps? I would personally pay for a subscription. In British Columbia and Alberta, the CanMatrix maps were far superior to Toporama because you could read them outdoors and they have 100 foot contours instead of the inferior interpolated 40 meter contours which lose all the detail.
You’re welcome to subscribe and use the CalTopo app and web products if you would like, however we are not licensing any our the layers we created (including scanned layers) to outside applications as of 1/1/21