Google maps and RunningAHEAD (Read 400 times)

eric :)


    Hi all,

    I've been silient on RA for a while because I've been busy with other stuff...

     

    For the longest time, Google maps has been free to use, which was one of the reasons for its popularity. Google maps have enriched our lives by visualizing our workout data. They have become one of the basic features that we expect from any training log.

     

    RA never made me rich because of my desire to keep it available to everyone. It generate a modest amount of revenue from advertisements, ad-free subscriptions, and additional donations from many of you. Much of the money went to paying for the servers and other costs associated with running a website. In a way, keeping all of RA's features to everyone has hurt RA because it did not generate enough money to keep RA growing. I didn't mind it because I still enjoy working on it.

     

    Last year, Google started charging for the use of Google maps. Many website operators have complained about the cost being too high. With the various discounts that Google initially gave to existing Google maps users, the monthly usage fee was similar to the revenue I get from ads. In the last several months, the cost has spiked to thousands of dollars a month. It is an amount that exceeds all of RA's revenue streams and I can't afford to pay for much longer.

     

    I am highly conflicted with what I should do. Here are some of my options:

    • Disable maps for anonymous (not logged in) users, limit the number of map views for non-subscription users.
    • Only subscription users can view maps. This severely limits the usefulness of RA. What's a running site without maps?
    • Switch to a different maps provider. This is the most complex option. The maps may not be as nice or up to date as Google's. I'll have to rewrite all the mapping code. It may take a month or two to complete, and I don't have that much time before being hit by another bill. I might have to disable maps until it's completed.

    I am not asking for money. I want hear your thoughts because any change will affect you.

     

    eric Smile

    F_A_Z


      If you don't mind me asking, how effective will the first option actually be at keeping costs down? That seems like the best option by far if it will actually work.

      Anyway, just retroactively subscribed for the last 6 years. Hope that helps, and others who have gotten so much out of the site will do the same.

      M_M_C


        Thank you for keeping us in the loop and for all the work you do maintain this site! Did not realize the subscription was only $10 a year until you made this post, and as someone who has been on this site for a number of years now I have no issues subscribing every year. Personally i wouldn't be offended if it were $20. However, requiring a subscription to use the mapping feature or limiting the map views for users will definitely turn off new users from using the site

         

        First, I would disable the mapping feature for anonymous, none logged in users. Like FAZ said, not sure what financial impact that will have, but seems like a no-brainer to me. I think the best bet is for people who who use this site regularly to become subscribers. That's at least the most straightforward solution to me. Honestly, as a new subscriber, I have no idea what additional features I now have access to, if any. I suggest making the additional features I will have access to once I be come a subscriber more obvious.

         

        Over time I would suggest also adding on to subscriber only features which make paying the fee more enticing. Maybe add features such as:

         

        • Subscriber recognition - a graphic, maybe customizable, which appears in forums and throughout the site next to your name
        • A profile view counter widget, which counts the number of views your profile gets over a specified period of time.
        • A feature similar to LinkedIn's where you can see what users are reading your log/profile and give subscribed users the ability to browse anonymously/incognito if they choose (not sure what that entails on the back end but just an idea).

        Again thanks for all you do, and I hope we are able to figure out an effective solution!

        3K: 8:29.12 (2017)     5K: 14:56.59 (2016)     8K: 25:27 (2016)     15K: 54:46.2 (2019)     FM: 2:58:48 (2019)

        rossruns


          For the time being, I would definitely disable maps for anonymous users, and probably those without a subscription.  The maps functionality is a nice-to-have but people who don't want to pay for it can still enjoy the free service you offer for logging/forums/etc.  I'm not sure how many new users you're getting per month, how many are converting to subscribers, and whether M_M_C's argument about not capturing new users who don't have maps until they pay has weight or not.

           

          Long term, I would suggest you look at transitioning to OpenStreetMap - almost as nice looking as Google but none of the paywall, and maintained by contributors.  Creative Commons attribution share-alike so you can still use it on your subscription site with proper attribution.

           

          Here's an article in Wired about people switching from Google Maps to OSM. (FYI, the most notable instance I know of is the Pokemon Go app, along with its predecessor, Ingress, that switched to OSM in December 2017.)

           

          Here's a site devoted to organizations actually switching over, from first principles to actual how-tos.  I know it's a huge commitment on your part to devote the time/resources to switching but OSM has been around for a long time and is heavily community-supported, so it would be a good alternative if you want a long term solution that should last for years to come.  You could either render the map tiles yourself and guarantee you'll never be charged (other than your server fees), or go with a tile provider that is cheaper than Google (some are supposedly free, I haven't checked in detail) and hope they don't try to do a price hike down the line (or even if they do, you could switch to another provider in the same space at that time with little-to-no-impact to your site due to standard APIs).

           

          Best of luck, and keep us posted with what you decide!

          paul2432


            I use this site mainly for the forum.  I’ve never used a map here and don’t think I would miss it if the map goes away.  I have Strava and Garmin connect for maps.  I don’t look much at other people’s logs.

             

            If this is an April Fools joke, good one.

            Julia1971


              Of those options, I think switching to another provider sounds like the best.  I agree that a running log needs maps.  (I also don't think $10 too become a subscriber and have access to maps is a lot to ask but I think it probably would drive away users.)

              Joe618


                I use this site mainly for the forum.  I’ve never used a map here and don’t think I would miss it if the map goes away.  I have Strava and Garmin connect for maps.  I don’t look much at other people’s logs.

                 

                If this is an April Fools joke, good one.

                 

                I ditto Paul's response here.   I have sources for maps.    i like the forums and the log...surpremely the log!! 

                 

                And if this is an April Fool's joke, well done!!!

                 

                Joe

                ________

                I have nothing particularly clever or profound to add as a tag to each message...I just like to run.   

                eric :)


                   

                  I ditto Paul's response here.   I have sources for maps.    i like the forums and the log...surpremely the log!! 

                   

                  And if this is an April Fool's joke, well done!!!

                   

                  Joe

                   

                  I wish it's an April Fools joke from Google but I assure you the bill is thousands of dollars.

                  DavePNW


                     

                     

                    I am highly conflicted with what I should do. Here are some of my options:

                    • (1) Disable maps for anonymous (not logged in) users, (2) limit the number of map views for non-subscription users.
                    • (3) Only subscription users can view maps. This severely limits the usefulness of RA. What's a running site without maps?
                    • (4) Switch to a different maps provider. This is the most complex option. The maps may not be as nice or up to date as Google's. I'll have to rewrite all the mapping code. It may take a month or two to complete, and I don't have that much time before being hit by another bill. I might have to disable maps until it's completed.

                    I am not asking for money. I want hear your thoughts because any change will affect you.

                     

                     

                    Numbered 1-4, this seems like a list in increasing order of potential disruption, and potential cost/revenue impact. I assume you pay per map view? Any way to phase in these options (in this order), to see what the effect is?

                     

                    #1 as stated by others seems like a no-brainer.

                     

                    #2-3, limiting or eliminating map views for non-subscribers may turn some people off, but they're not contributing anyway, so...? And already some people in this thread have said they don't care; someone who doesn't even subscribe may likely care even less. I do care; I have Strava as well, but this place is really where I live.

                     

                    #4 sounds like a lot of work, and I'd think any major code changes always have the chance of unforeseen consequences. Not sure what triggered all the chaos around New Year's, but I'm guessing that kind of thing could happen again if you messed around with things too much. (Full disclosure: I am not an IT guy. As if you couldn't tell.)

                     

                    I know you're not asking for more money, but I'd pay more, and I know others would as well.

                    Dave

                      My .02:

                       

                      Disable maps for non-subscribers or logged out users and only subscription users get access to maps.

                       

                      Raise the subscription price and offer different tiers.

                      Runners run.

                      kcam


                        I use RA for the running log and maps are an integral part of what makes this log the best out there.  I agree wholeheartedly with limiting maps to subscription-paid users.  Even without map access it's still an outstanding running log.

                        Maybe this would buy the time to work on OSM conversion.

                        Jlynne


                          My .02:

                           

                          Disable maps for non-subscribers or logged out users and only subscription users get access to maps.

                           

                          Raise the subscription price and offer different tiers.

                          +1

                          Probably a lot more work for Eric, but not as much as getting a new provider.  I do use the map option when I forget to charge my watch for a few days!

                            I agree wholeheartedly with limiting maps to subscription-paid users.  Even without map access it's still an outstanding running log.

                             

                            I agree with the above and also to do whatever you have to do eliminate this huge expense on your part.   I use the training log and forums.  Once in awhile I use the maps, so they're not that important to me.  I would also pay a higher yearly subscription fee. $10 is a steal.

                             

                            This is a wonderful site.

                            Leslie
                            Living and Running Behind the Redwood Curtain
                            -------------

                            Rich Roll Podcast

                            Trail Runner Nation

                            Billy Yang Podcasts

                             

                            bobinpittsburgh


                               

                              Numbered 1-4, this seems like a list in increasing order of potential disruption, and potential cost/revenue impact. I assume you pay per map view? Any way to phase in these options (in this order), to see what the effect is?

                               

                              #1 as stated by others seems like a no-brainer.

                               

                              #2-3, limiting or eliminating map views for non-subscribers may turn some people off, but they're not contributing anyway, so...? And already some people in this thread have said they don't care; someone who doesn't even subscribe may likely care even less. I do care; I have Strava as well, but this place is really where I live.

                               

                              #4 sounds like a lot of work, and I'd think any major code changes always have the chance of unforeseen consequences. Not sure what triggered all the chaos around New Year's, but I'm guessing that kind of thing could happen again if you messed around with things too much. (Full disclosure: I am not an IT guy. As if you couldn't tell.)

                               

                              I know you're not asking for more money, but I'd pay more, and I know others would as well.

                               

                              I agree with what Dave says. Really, whatever you think you have to do is good by me. I appreciate having this site available and would pay a higher subscription rate if that's what it takes.

                              We're in Crazytown. 

                              LedLincoln


                              not bad for mile 25

                                I'm another vote for OSM, in conjunction with some or all of the other options during the transition (or permanently).  And yes, we must keep up our subscriptions regardless of what Eric ultimately decides.

                                Egotist (n.) A person of low taste, more interested in himself than in me.

                                -Ambrose Bierce