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Getting started

Learn about the building blocks that Mapbox provides so you can create custom mapping applications.

Welcome to Mapbox! Mapbox is a location data platform that powers the maps and location services used in many popular apps. To see a sampling of some of these apps, visit our Built with Mapbox showcase.

If you've seen our logo in the corner of a static or interactive map, you may be familiar with our dynamic maps and map styling capabilities, which make Mapbox a favorite tool for application developers and information designers across industries. Mapbox also provides customers with enterprise-grade location, traffic, and movement data, and APIs for routing, navigation, and delivery matrixing.

In this guide, we will explain some of the foundational technologies that enable the services we offer, and introduce our suite of developer tools.

If you want to start building now, you can:

Create a free account

Introduction to Mapbox

Mapbox technology originated with a team of web developers who wanted to answer this question: How can we draw a map dynamically, inside a web browser, instead of downloading static map tiles rendered on a server? They wanted to embed dynamic, interactive, customizable maps on webpages and mobile devices, and they combined vector tiles and 3D rendering technology to create a solution.

With the creation of Mapbox GL and our open source Mapbox Style Specification, a world of dynamic mapping applications opened up, and Mapbox became a company devoted to creating tools that put these capabilities in the hands of developers.

Mapbox technology

Today, Mapbox supports maps and location services for a wide variety of web, mobile, automotive, and gaming applications. This section describes the core technologies that make Mapbox services work.

Our map data is the foundation for many of our location services. Our data processing pipelines ingest new data from mobile sensors, driver feedback, cameras with computer vision, and aerial imagery into our data processing pipelines, and combine this data with open and proprietary sources to keep our map data up-to-date as the world changes. We also offer premium Boundaries, Traffic, and Movement data products.

Our traffic data leverages the same processing pipelines to update traffic profiles for billions of road segments around the world every few minutes, enabling powerful navigation capabilities like traffic-aware routing and intuitive turn-by-turn directions.

Our vision technology uses efficient neural networks to process road-level imagery directly on mobile or embedded devices, transforming smart phones and dashcams into live sensors interpreting road conditions in real time.

Our developer tools include powerful APIs for Maps, Search, Navigation, Vision, and Accounts services. We provide SDKs to make these services accessible to web, mobile, game, and embedded device developers. Our developer tools include Mapbox GL JS, our JavaScript SDK for web developers; Mapbox Studio, a free map style editor with live visual previews; and Mapbox Atlas, our on-premise application for customers with restrictive network requirements. For a complete list of tools, see our documentation.

We rely on vector tiles to store and serve most of our map data. The vector tile format is compact and is designed for caching, scaling, and serving map data rapidly. Vector tiles contain the geometries and metadata that can be rendered on a map. Read more about our Vector Tile Specification below.

Our graphics libraries, Mapbox GL and Mapbox GL Native, tell web and mobile devices how to draw maps as visual graphics. Mapbox GL fetches geospatial data from vector tiles and style instructions from a style document and helps the client draw 2D and 3D Mapbox maps as dynamic visual graphics with OpenGL.

Mapbox GL relies on two specification documents that define the standards which enable Mapbox GL to properly instruct clients:

  • Our open source Mapbox Vector Tile Specification describes how the geometries and attributes within geospatial data must be stored and encoded within vector tiles.

  • Our open source Mapbox Style Specification describes how you must write a map style to tell Mapbox GL what data to draw, the order to draw it in, and what colors, opacity levels, and other properties to apply when drawing the data. The Mapbox Studio style editor is a visual tool for creating a style document that adheres to this specification.

Mapbox services

Mapbox technologies power an array of location capabilities that we organize into these core services:

  • Our Maps service maintains the map data served through our core tilesets, and all our capabilities for rendering that data in 2D and 3D, including Mapbox GL and associated specifications, Mapbox Tiling Service, Mapbox Studio, and Mapbox Atlas. This service includes all our Maps APIs and SDKs.

  • Our Search service is tied to everything we build. This service includes our Geocoding API, enhanced POI data, and our Search SDK, which helps developers implement features like category search, fuzzy search, type-ahead, autocomplete, and user history and favorites.

  • Our Navigation service uses our routing engines to provide traffic-aware routing capabilities and intuitive turn-by-turn directions. This service includes our Directions, Map Matching, Isochrone, Optimization, and Matrix APIs, and our Navigation SDK, which helps developers add turn-by-turn navigation to mobile applications.

  • Our Vision service maintains the AI-powered image processing capabilities inside our Mapbox Vision SDK, and develops the SDK itself.

Our services are highly interoperable, and our service teams listen closely to customer feedback to build products that support the needs of developers.

How to use Mapbox

You can create a free account and get your first access token to begin building with Mapbox now. This section describes the resources we offer to enable you on your developer journey.

Get inspired

Inspiration is an important part of building with Mapbox tools. We offer several resources to spark your imagination and fuel your creativity.

  • Read our blog to learn about new features and products.
  • See our Solutions page to explore location use cases across industries.
  • Browse our Impact tools for free project templates for nonprofits.
  • Join our live webinars to learn what other developers are building.
  • Follow us @Mapbox on Twitter for beautiful map tweets.

Design a map style

Creating a custom map style can be a fun way to start building with Mapbox. You can follow our tutorials to create a custom style by using a template style or using Cartogram.

See our Map design guide to learn more about how you can define the most intricate details of your map's appearance by editing your style with the Mapbox Studio Style editor, a visual tool for cartographers.

Drag the slider in the widget below to compare how two different map styles present a different appearance for the same underlying map data.

Once you have created a map style, you can use it to style any Mapbox map to create a consistent appearance across different platforms. To add interactivity, you can use code to build a map-based application.

Try a tutorial

Our tutorials offer step-by-step instructions for completing specific projects with Mapbox. You can learn common development workflows, and see how multiple Mapbox products can be used together.

For new Mapbox developers we recommend:

For more experienced developers, we recommend:

Following our tutorials can help you learn how to build web and mobile applications with Mapbox. To see our complete collection of tutorials, visit our Tutorials page.

Try a playground

Our playgrounds are interactive tools designed to help you explore our APIs or understand specific development workflows. Playgrounds usually take input from you, then return a helpful code snippet, like an API request or response, that you can use in your webpage or application.

Build an application

When you use code to add interactivity to a map or view, you are building an application. The following guides explain our tools to help you use Mapbox to build applications on different platforms.

  • Our web applications guide introduces Mapbox GL JS, our JavaScript library for interactive vector maps on the web. You can use GL JS to render detailed, feature-dense maps at 60 FPS, enable powerful interactivity with exposed map features, and add seamless 3D integration using global elevation data.

  • Our mobile applications guide introduces our Mapbox mobile SDKs for iOS and Android. Our Maps SDKs are designed to be drop-in replacements for Apple's MapKit and the Google Maps SDKs. Add powerful features to your app with our Navigation, Search, and Vision mobile SDKs.

  • Our Unity applications guide introduces the Mapbox Maps SDK for Unity. This library provides a robust API for interfacing with Mapbox web services and converting map resources into game objects, and includes a graphical user interface built on top of the Unity platform.

  • To extend an existing application by adding location services like locating addresses, conducting spatial analysis, or adding routing features, see our guides for geocoding, spatial analysis, and directions.

Use our documentation

Our help documentation provides general information related to the Mapbox platform. This documentation includes the following content types:

  • Getting started guides provide introductory context to help you understand and begin using Mapbox services and tools.

  • Tutorials include step-by-step instructions for completing specific projects with Mapbox. Tutorials show common development workflows and can help you learn how to use multiple Mapbox tools together.

  • Troubleshooting guides provide guidance for common problems related to building with Mapbox and location services.

  • Glossary entries define technical terms related to geographic information systems (GIS), programming, and Mapbox-specific technologies.

Our product documentation provides information that developers need to use specific Mapbox products. This documentation is organized by service, and includes the following content types:

  • Guides offer narrative explanation for specific tools. They often also include installation or quickstart instructions, or answer common questions. Our Navigation SDK for Android guide is an example of this content type.

  • Reference documentation includes specific technical details for a product, and often also include code snippets or inline examples. Our Static Images API documentation is an example of this content type. Specification documents, which define standards for how information must be structured or encoded, are also reference documents.

  • Examples are standalone pages that contain an isolated piece of code that shows how a specific feature can be used. Examples often contain a preview animation or a functional prototype of the code. Show and hide layers is an example of this content type.

To give us feedback on our documentation, use the Was this helpful? widget that appears on each of our documentation pages.

Understand pricing

Our pricing is designed for developers, with a generous free tier covering typical usage during development, and then metered services for usage typical of production applications with active users. Our accounts and pricing guide provides more information about managing your Mapbox account, including a detailed section on pricing by products. Start a conversation with our sales team to learn more about annual payment discounts or other options.

Get support

We offer free and paid technical support plans to help developers build with Mapbox tools. See our technical support options guide to learn more about how to get technical support.