Google to Mobile GMaps: No tiles for you

This sucks. Cristian Streng, developer of Mobile GMaps — the most feature-rich and robust mobile mapping application I know for J2ME-capable phones — has been sent a cease & desist letter from “Google Enforcement Team”. Google only lets you use mapping tiles from Google via the API. But the API is javascript-based. Mobile phones don’t do javascript. Ergo no Google Maps-based tools allowed for mobiles… unless you use Google’s own (barebones) application, of course.

Cristian has now complied with the letter of the law, if not the spirit, as he’s removed the Google Maps option from the most recent version but also made it possible for the end user to now define any base URL for a tile mapping service like Google’s. (This reminds me of online “crossword” games where you have to build your own Scrabble ™ board.) Hack the Day has the settings for getting Google Maps tiles in the new version if you are so inclined.

One highly ironic result: You can now only legally view KML files on your mobile on top of Yahoo Maps and Microsoft Live Local.

It’s Google’s tiles and they can of course set the terms however they want. But it’s undeniable we have ourselves a sub-optimal outcome here. Google should consider doing one or more of the following:

  1. Build a mobile mapping client that makes me want to switch from Mobile GMaps to Google Maps Mobile. (KML support? Live web tracking?)
  2. Hire Cristian Streng.
  3. Amend the API or their terms of use so that the mashup revolution can go mobile. Third parties need to be able to thrive on mobile platforms too.

That last point is very important. In an ideal world, people would simply start adopting more lenient mapping services for their mobile apps, and these then get the benefits of widespread adoption, but the real-world problem is that outside the US, high resolution satellite imagery by Google’s competitors is atrocious. In places like Egypt and elsewhere, Google’s imagery and maps are the only game in town.

In other Mobile GMaps news, KML output has been improved if you want to do live tracking with GMap Track. Simply point a KML network link to:

You will get a placemark for your last location — and now also all the metadata that comes with it.

7 thoughts on “Google to Mobile GMaps: No tiles for you”

  1. Stefan:

    We’ve been through the licensing issue often enough with GE/GMaps to know that the hitch is probably with Google’s data providers (Navteq/TeleAtlas/Digital Globe/et al). One might surmise that separate licensing deals have been cut for mobile apps as opposed to normal web apps, so especially an effort to suck tiles across platforms will raise red flags.

    Mobile–in the US anyway–is especially complicated since the network providers also want as much control over content as possible, and are quite adept at the protecting their oligopolistic anti-competitive setup. So if I were Cristian, it wouldn’t be Google I’d be worrying about meeting in a dark alley but rather the Verizon or AT&T thugs…


  2. Well we went through this with World Wind, Google has a tighter license than virtual earth and also not very explicit, I’d love to see the API opened up more, I don’t buy into the whole Google excuse of blaming the imagery providers though.

  3. I do believe this is more about the map providers than about google. Google’s license specifically says the following:

    Except where you have been specifically licensed to do so by Google, you may not use Google Maps with any products, systems, or applications installed or otherwise connected to or in communication with vehicles, capable of vehicle navigation, positioning, dispatch, real time route guidance, fleet management or similar applications.

  4. I have an other mobile mapping client ( that support most of the KML tags. Did not received anything from Google yet, but I expect to have some.

    I’ve tried several times to contact Google Map team to find a commercial agreement, without any answer from them at all, through various channels….

    Sounds that they have a better lawyer department tha, the commercial one….

Comments are closed.