Taking OpenLayers to the next level?

Kris Geusebroek

Attending the FOSS4G conference in Sydney I have been attending a lot of presentations and involved in discussions about the OpenLayers JavaScript framework. see also my previous blog post on My Opensource GIS experiences.

Especially the Birds Of a Feather session yesterday made me really enthusiastic about the next level of OpenLayers.


Changes to come?

The discussion in the Birds of a Feather session were mostly about the following subjects:

Documentation

Documentation is always a big issue within open source projects. Its always difficult to write good documentation without any clear objective or guideline from the people using the documentation. In an opensource project you not only have to deal with the users (who you don’t know) but also a lot of developers with mixed experience.

Examples

There are a lot of examples on how to use OpenLayers. The only problem is that these are not all written with the same style. Some of them are still using some old school way of dealing with the OpenLayers code. It would be great if there could be a set of examples using the latest and greatest way of handling different use cases, written in the same style of coding. This prevents new time users to build of a deprecated example and asking all kinds of questions on the mailing list.

Separation of UI look and feel

The current control elements are containing both functionality and representation stuff so it is considered a good thing to separate those two concerns. The control object would be modified to only contain the specific functionality and launch events on which the UI layer could base its presentation. This way it would be a lot easier to substitute the current basic looks of OpenLayers whit something fancier with the help of Ext, GeoExt or JQueryUI.

HTML5

With the new html5 functionality around the corner it would be great if we can start using the geolocation api to for example center the map on your current position, use a canvas for the map and its layers to minimize the dom manipulation which causes big memory problems (at least in IE).

This will be a big change from the current API since i imagine the Map to be a 3d (or 2d) canvas where you can add your image tiles and features from different layers. Would be awesome to be able to use 3d and create a globe with your tiles on it!!

Summary

I personally want to work on the HTML5 stuff (2d at first) creating a new Map object and adding tiles and features to it would be the first go i think.

I know some people are afraid this would break the current way OpenLayers is working. So one thing i want to know from whoever is reading this: Is this really breaking the current API or is it just adding new and cool stuff?

Comments (1)

  1. Schuyler Erle - Reply

    October 26, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    Depends on how you add the features. If you're just creating new layers, no worries. If you need to change the API fundamentally, that'll require a new major version of the OpenLayers.

    To be fair, I think we should start thinking about what OpenLayers 3.0 might look like. OL currently has a bunch of warts and legacy code from as far back as 2007, retained for compatibility reasons. A version 3.0 would let us clean out the cruft while planning for new features.

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