Maps and Semantic Maps 1.0 released!

It’s been a little over half a year since the last mayor release of the Maps and Semantic Maps extensions, but now 1.0, featuring many new features and internal improvements, is here! This is the most significant release since version 0.1, which quite coincidentally, was released exactly 2 years ago today :)

Let’s have a look at all the new awesomeness:

Google Maps v3 support

Maps has had some very basic support for Google Maps v3 since version 0.5.3, back when the v3 API was still in beta. Right now the v3 API is out of beta, and the v2 one has been deprecated a few months back, so it was definitely time to further implement support for v2. This new version of Google Maps brings many improvements, focusing mostly on performance (loading speed of the maps, esp on mobile devices), but also several other cool things such as streetview support and easy adding of layers such as traffic. Since the v2 API has been deprecated it makes only sense that the default mapping service in Maps has changed from Google Maps v2 to Google Maps v3. It’s not really a new feature, but awesome nonetheless: you don’t need an API key for Google Maps v3! So when setting up Maps on a new wiki (using Google Maps), you won’t have to bother with any API key configuration any more, it’ll just work :) Support for the former is still there, so if you want to retain the exact same functionality as you have with v0.7 of Maps (or earlier), you can still get those maps using service=googlemaps2 (or format=googlemaps2 in SMW queries). One feature has been removed from the v2 implementation, which is the overlays control. This has to do with internal changes and performance optimizations discussed later on in this blog post. Be sure to check out the Google Maps v3 Maps documentation to discover all the cool features it supports.

Google Maps v3 map showing a part of New York City

Google Maps v3 map showing a part of New York City

Google Maps v3 map showing a part of New York City using Google Streetview

Improved form inputs

Since it’s first release Semantic Maps has had form inputs using Google Maps v2, Yahoo! Maps and OpenLayers. These inputs allow for entering geographical coordinates in Semantic Forms forms via a nice GUI with a map and an option to geocode an address. Nothing much has changed to these inputs since that initial release, until now. All input, including a new Google Maps v3 one, now have a “set location” button next to the coordinates box, which sets the map to that location, as was already the case with the geocoding button next to the address field. Some minor layout improvements have also been made, and hitting enter in the coordinates or geocoding fields will result in what you’d expect, rather then submitting the form. The OpenLayers form input now also supports geocoding, making use of the new GeoNames API; more on that later.

Google Maps v3 form input

Use of the MediaWiki resource loader

MediaWiki 1.17 introduces a resource loader for JavaScript and CSS, which both Maps and Semantic Maps now make use of for all their JS and CSS resources. The resource loader does several neat things, the most important thing being delaying loading (and execution) of resources until after page load as well as combining and minifying them, which is very important for performance (page load time). This means that when you have over 9000 maps on your page, it’ll actually load before protons decay away, initially showing only gray boxes where the maps should be, and then one-by-one loading the maps into them. The resource loader does several other cool things, such as automatic right-to-left conversion of CSS and neat conversion of i18n messages from PHP to JS. Making use of the RL when available but at the same time retaining compatibility with pre-RL MediaWiki turned out to be a bit difficult and it would greatly complicate the code, so I decided to simply not do this. This obviously means you will need MediaWiki 1.17 in order to use (Semantic) Maps 0.8.x and later. Can’t use 1.17 yet for some reason? Don’t panic! I’ll continue to support the 0.7.x for a while longer, fixing bugs as they are found. Don’t expect any new features there though.

Support for the new GeoNames API

Maps has a new geocoding service: the new GeoNames API. It already had support for GeoNames, but it seems this service is now only offered as legacy support. (I’m not completely sure about this, if someone better familiar with the service knows, please poke me.) A big change with the new service is that you need a GeoNames API account to use it, which you can create here. You then need to set your accounts user name in your LocalSettings.php file. Maps still has the ‘geonames’ service as default for #geocode and OpenLayers maps. If you set the account name, the new service will be used, if not, Maps will fall back to the old one, so you can upgrade to 0.8 without geocoding suddenly failing because you don’t have a GeoNames account. For more info see the GeoNames documentation for Maps.

JavaScript overhaul

Similarly to the form inputs in Semantic Maps, all the JavaScript in both Maps and Semantic Maps has seen quite little attention since the initial releases of the extensions. Many additions have been made to add new functionality, but the structure has remained the same ever since. All of it has now been rewritten to jQuery plugins, making it a lot more orderly and easy to extend.

More internal improvements

Not only the JavaScript has seen significant improvements, but some legacy code has also been thrown out of the PHP, making it a lot less complex, more easy to track the code flow and definitely makes it easier to add new functionality. This rewrite is very much a follow up to internal improvements made in versions 0.6, 0.7 and 0.7.3, and completes getting rid of some bad old architecture in the core Maps code. Future releases will therefore most likely focus a lot more on simply adding new features :)

And more…

For a full list of changes, see the release announcement. These do not list the huge amount of internationalization updates and small improvements made by a lot of contributors by reporting issues and providing patches. Thanks to all!

How stable is it?

A lot of internal changes have been made, but at the same time, most of these have been made about 3 months back. Several wikis have been using alpha versions of 1.0 ever since, and a release candidate was made a few days back. Since there are no known issues at this point, I decided to release 1.0. So yes, it should be pretty stable, although you might run into minor issues with less frequently used components. If you do, please report it, so they can be addressed quickly in a 1.0.1 release.

Legacy support for 0.7.x

As an extension developer and MediaWiki consultant, I’m quite aware that a lot of people are not in positions to update their MediaWiki to 1.17 just yet, preventing them from upgrading Maps and Semantic Maps. For this reason I decided way back when starting the development of version 1.0 to continue limited support of version 0.7.x for a while. Versions 0.7.4 to 0.7.7 have been released especially for this purpose, and I’ll continue to backport important fixes. Don’t expect any new features to show up for 0.7.x though.

What’s next?

Although the current set of functionality is pretty solid, there are many other geographical features one can imagine. Features such as marker clustering, static maps, route plotting (without the use of KML), ect, have been on the wishlist practically since the inception of the Maps extension. There is nothing really standing out for me enough to go ahead and implement it in my free time. If any such feature is important to you and you can fund it’s development, definitely contact me. Of course I’ll continue to support the extension and make fixes where needed.

The Semantic MediaWiki 1.6 release will be followed by a new Semantic Bundle, which will include this new version of Maps and Semantic Maps.

Downloads

Referata, which runs the documentation wiki for the mapping extensions has upgraded to version 1.0, so you can have a look at and try out the new features yourself on the example/demo pages.

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