…the world was ruled by surveyors and GIS ‘Professionals’…
At the dawning of the internet, these dinosaurs thought it would be a good idea to put their maps online, but there was a problem
..they were slow and ugly, there are two schools of thought about why:1. The conventional school suggests that the maps were overly complex, not designed for the web and ran on infrastructure not capable of creating a la carte maps2. The non-conventional….that surveyors are slow and ugly too.
In 2005 everything changed. The McMap arrived - Google Maps
Where ever you go there’s a Google map - and you know what it’s great, Google did what the GIS “Pros” had been trying to do for years - get maps working on the internet!But how?Well they left what little GIS baggage they had at home and cut
..and so we entered the renaissance – the Tile Age, where tiled ‘slippy’ maps are the dominant form of online maps
The emergence of tiled maps has reduced the speed issue in online maps, that leaves the ugly issue – and so cartography is back! Not only do your maps have to be quick, they have to look good!
So what is TileMill…Well it’s a design studio for creating beautiful (and interactive) maps which can be cached as tile map sets, these map tiles can then be used on web pages, just like Google maps.
This is the mapbox interface - basically two panels – a map on the left showing your data and on the left stylesheets which you edit to control how your data appears in your map.Development Seed created Carto – a map cascading stylesheet which abstracts the ‘complexities’ of mapnik away from the user. However mapnik which is an open source rendering engine does the amazing work under the hood.
SqlLite based tile storage – single package, makes it easy to move around the place, and because it’s a database it can contain other goodies like vector tiles.
One of the advantage of MBTiles is that it can reference a single tile multiple times – which is handy when a lot of the world looks like this…This model of managing redundancy is important because it dramatically reduces both the time it takes to create the tiles and the amount of space the tiles take up on disk.Why do this….
Well like many good product companies Development Seed have chosen to eat their own dog food – they needed to create large tile data sets relatively quickly i.e. global scale tile sets Because…They created mapbox streets – block level global coverage OSM tiles – rendered beautifully – free accounts and paid accounts – but its more it’s a cloud based map publishing platform.But I know what you’re thinking….
To summerise TileMill isn’t a GIS or anything close to one – it just does one thing well – create tiles. It’s also open source and cross platform so you can download and run it on Mac, Linux or Windows