Monday, July 12, 2010

Opera and Google Maps API v3

As you have probably noticed, the Street View feature has made it to the main site, and the beta site has been shut down (as it didn't have anything special any more). is now running with Google Maps API version 3 (up from version 2).

Besides an all-HTML Street View (which works on mobile browsers without Flash, like the iPhone), the version 3 API has other improvements, and all of the improvements made by Google in the future will go to version 3, not version 2. Stay tuned for more! With the new version the map loads faster on many platforms (especially mobile browsers). There are still some bugs in v3, and some compatibility problems with specific browsers, but the bigger ones should be fixed already.

One currently visible bug is that polygons are not rendering in the Opera browser. What this means for is that things like the track lines, APRS packet path lines and PHG circles do not show up. Symbol graphics are shown, and I suppose that everything else is working with Opera.

This problem could be fixed by either the guys at Opera (since it works in the other browsers), or the guys at Google (since they have managed to make a workaround for Opera in API v2). Now, it seems like Google isn't going to do it, so the Opera fans should hope that Opera will do the fixes instead. Or maybe they can use some other browser in the mean time. Here's a quote from a Google employee in the bug ticket for the polygons on opera:
Opera is not currently a supported browser for the Maps API. Supporting a browser is not just a policy decision. To support a browser we must add it to our automated test suite, and then ensure it passes all tests now and ongoing. So there is an overhead associated with supporting additional browsers. We have to balance that overhead against the volume of requests we see from that browser and decide if the adoption amongst users merits the cost.

We can not support Opera Mini, because it does not have a sufficient level of JavaScript support. This leaves Opera for Desktop and Opera Mobile. Together these two browsers account for less than 1% of the requests we receive for the Maps API v3. Perhaps the strongest argument for supporting Opera is that it would open up the API to a number of new platforms (eg. Symbian, WinMo). However when we exclude requests from platforms for which we already have a supported browser, that number drops to 0.05%. So right now supporting Opera is simply not a good investment of our engineering time compared to working on features that will benefit 100% of the developer and user base.

Consequently I am going to collapse all bugs relating to Opera into this one, and reclassify this as a Feature Request to support Opera. We will continue to keep an eye on this issue and on the adoption numbers, and if a new strong argument arises, or adoption increases, we will revisit it.
The statistics for show quite a bit more Opera users than 1%, but it's still not a lot. I could either throw out Street View and go back to v2 for some time, or stay with gmaps API v3 and ask the Opera users to use some other browser for now. I think I'll go for the latter option. I sure hope that one of the players involved does the required fixes soon.

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