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Maps: Heading in a New Direction

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Greetings! Some time ago, we asked the Wikia Community about their opinions on how wikis currently use and would like to use mapping services such as Google Maps or Open Street Maps.

For some time now, the extension Wikia offers for mapping - Google Maps - has been becoming increasingly deprecated and, at the time of the community discussion, we were looking for a long-term replacement.

CatamountStadium

Being a racing history buff, I like to use Google Maps to insert maps of old racetracks into my wiki pages.

I am pleased to announce today the replacement has been selected and we are going full-speed ahead with the new platform. The extension in question is called Maps. It is a well-maintained third-party MediaWiki extension that has a lot of cool features that Google Maps did not have. Even better, we can swap ‘Google Maps’ maps into ‘Maps’ maps (say that ten times fast) very easily.

Why Switch?Edit

In general, Wikia does not add features or fix bugs with third-party extensions, instead we pass along the relevant information into the MediaWiki bug tracking system called Bugzilla. We do support extensions as long as we can until the feature coding or storage techniques becomes so deprecated that it would take major rewriting to get the tool to work on the version of MediaWiki Wikia operates on.

Even if we wanted to patch the bugs on our end, there’s always the risk of having the extension developer coming back and updating their extension later with differing code techniques, meaning we would have to undo a bunch of our work to fall back in line with the base version of the extension.

Google Maps falls into this situation and has not been updated in a very long time. A number of key features, such as the “add map” button in the plaintext editor were fairly broken by coding changes in later versions of MediaWiki.

Worse was the reliance upon a Google API key system that Google is removing support for. Essentially, all GoogleMaps maps on Wikia would have stopped working on May 19th. So, it’s time for a change!

What Is NewEdit

Maps-openlayers-customlayer (1)

An OpenLayers map in our new mapping tool

The best part about Maps is that it offers an extra mapping service, OpenLayers. This allows the user to pick and choose what map service they want to use that best fits their need. If your wiki is about geography, you probably want to use Google Maps’ satellite view. If you’re running a wiki about a city metro, you probably will find the OpenLayers mapping system excellent.

Maps also allows you to do the following things:

  • Explicitly define how large you would like the map to be
  • Set minimum and maximum zoom levels
  • Calculate distance between two points on a map
  • Select multiple points on a map.
  • Customize marker point colors.

A full list of extension features is available here.

The Conversion ProcessEdit

Thanks to our Community Engineering team, we have a very comprehensive script ready that will go through all wikis on Wikia that have Extension:GoogleMaps enabled, enable the Maps extension, use Wikia’s global bot account to convert all the maps over to the new extension, and then turn off the deprecated GoogleMaps extension there.

This script has been tested on a few different wikis and all looks good. It is built to handle all of the parameters that GoogleMaps had and convert them over to their equivalent in the new Maps extension. The script will be run early next week.

If your wiki would like this new extension, regardless of whether or not your community used Maps before, you are free to request this extension through Special:Contact.

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