Vector tiles for osm.org

I know that the idea to have vector tiles for osm.org has been out there for years. The benefits are obvious, for example the possibility to show country and city names in different languages. Does anybody know what the current status is? Are there people working on this project? Has it been abandoned?

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There was some discussion (or mentions) to vectors in this topic

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Two of the styles on osm.org are already vector tile based - Cycle Map and Transport Map are like the rest of Thunderforest’s styles.

I’ve reached out to multiple tile providers to submit a new layer for consideration, but none have done so. If you know of any that are interested, please ask them to contact the OWG or myself.

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Obviously all map style deployed on the openstreetmap.org slippery map deliver PNG tiles. I checked that about one minute ago.

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For those who are unaware of the distinction, these two styles are rendered from vector tiles, but the renderings are rasterized on the server side so that your browser downloads and displays PNGs. An alternative approach to vector tiles is to render them on the client side. OpenHistoricalMap, OpenStreetMap India, and OpenStreetMap Americana are examples of community-maintained websites that take the latter approach.

It’s technically possible to localize place name labels even with raster tiles, but client-side vector tiles eliminate the need to maintain a redundant tileset for each language on the server side. There are some tradeoffs, such as limited support for older browsers or graphics cards.

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I just checked on the network tab that PNGs are sent for both the Cycle
and Transport maps. But I believe the question was a different one,
about vector rendering on the browser. Though certainly this is already
a step in that direction.

There’s no barrier to localizing labels with server side rendered vector tiles if they are rendered on demand which I believe is what typically happens.

It’s just a different one, trading disk space for CPU+reply time.

No, they’re not, because when someone mentions “vector tiles” without further context, you can safely assume they’re talking about client-side rendering.

From that point of view, the fact that some of the raster tiles displayed on osm.org were produced from tiled vector data somewhere on the server is just an implementation detail. It achieves none of the benefits that people hope for when they ask for vector tiles on osm.org, such as the ability for community members without access to beefy servers (or the knowledge of how to manage them) being able to meaningfully contribute render styles to OSM, or getting localization “for free”.

As for the original question: This issue might be relevant, but since some of the people more knowledgeable on the topic haven’t brought it up as a response, I suspect it’s not moving forward nearly as fast as I would have hoped:

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Whenever the topic of vector tiles comes up, I find that people really mean one of these ideas:

  1. A desire for a vector tile server (i.e. curated OSM data in mbtiles format) so that people can create their own styles
  2. A desire for specific features associated with client-side rendering (local language rendering is probably the best-known, but many other interactive features are also made possible)
  3. A general complaint about the amount of technical progress on the project

So when someone asks about vector tiles, it’s useful to understand what angle they’re coming from.

We are doing this today in our vector-tile based OpenStreetMap Americana. If you visit that link, it will display place labels using whatever language is configured in your web browser. While OSM Americana is not yet mature enough in terms of completeness and deployment/devops strategy, we have a roadmap to get there on a timeline dictated only by the pace and enthusiasm of volunteer energy. As of today’s date, we’ve had 34 PRs merged from 5 authors over the last month, and I’m thrilled at that level of collaboration and activity. However, there is A LOT still to do.

It is not specifically a goal of OSM Americana to be a featured layer on osm.org, however I recognize that there is some interest in the community for increased diversity in both technology and the availability of regional styles.

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If I may add a fourth one:

  1. To have a more interactive map on osm.org with clickable POIs – which would be easier to implement with vector tiles.
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That’s really just one example of “interactive features made possible by vector tiles”. Other ones I’ve heard are pulling down company logos to use in business POI icons, or building a dynamic legend to describe to a user what the various icons on the screen mean. There’s a whole world of ideas that become possible or easier with client-side rendering.

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Random question on Americana, thanks, Brian.

Over the last few days, I’ve updated some roads in our area from =trunk to =primary, but when I just had a look, out of interest’s sake, Americana is still showing them as trunk, but they’re primary in OSM (Carto)?

How quickly does it usually update?

I run a script to manually update the tiles, and it takes about two hours for the full planet to re-render. It costs me about $2 in compute time, so it’s too expensive to run on an automated loop if I’m paying the bill, but cheap enough that I’m happy to run updates when needed to support style development, or if someone has made a wide-area change and is looking to see the results. Eventually we’ll get permanent hosting set up.

So the short answer is: the tiles are updated upon request!

Thanks, mate!

In that case, certainly not something that can’t wait till next time :grinning: