Operation Portal Recon

(AKA Portal submissions coming back in a new way!)

It was a sad day when Ingress APK 1.77.0 dropped, removing the ability to submit new portals.


It was been a little over a year now and #IngressYear4 has unveiled a huge suprise: Operation Portal Recon. John Hanke sat down with the Tech Crunch news blog, who broke the details of this new version of portal submissions.

Quick history of previous version

In the early days of Ingress, Niantic pre-populated the map with known churches, fire stations, museums, and post offices. This gave us the base playing field for Ingress, allowing the initial invite-only user base to interact with the game. Niantic then incentivized agents to submit as many of these portals as they possibly could to obtain an in-game reward/medal. Medals (as you may or may not know) can also count towards leveling, which was a further incentive to submit portals.


Prior to the removing the ability to submit portals all together, the medal incentive was suspended on Dec 31, 2014, which also hid the badge for agents who didn’t meet the minimum 10 to get bronze. Newer agents don’t even see this as a locked medal on the scanner. While at the start, Niantic was hungry to have the agents grow its infrastructure for Ingress (which translated to Pokémon GO). Giving incentives also lead to many portals known as “trash portals”, such as a garden ornament in someone’s front yard. The combination of all this lead to a queue so massive that the Niantic portal reviewers packed up their bags and went back to their home land.

Operation Portal Recon


The new portal submission, Portal Recon, will allow agents to give feedback on potential portals in their hometown (once set, this location CANNOT be changed). Additionally, you are also given a bonus location. Unlike your hometown location, this can be changed once a year.


Agents will give feedback on the details of the portal being submitted via a 1-5 star system. These are the fields mentioned/seen so far:

  • Should this be a portal?
  • Is the title accurate?
  • Is it historically significant?
  • Is it visually unique?
  • Is the location accurate?
  • Can it be safely accessed?
  • Check duplicates.

Since the portal submissions in the past have proven to be far too much to handle, Niantic is hoping that this new system will have “no human intervention.” There will an algorithm that approves and creates the new portal, based on positive feedback given from agents.

Closed Beta

Like with the Mission Creation Tool, the initial roll out of this tool will be in closed beta. As we understand things currently, these are the current pre-requisites for closed beta:

  • Live in San Francisco, USA or Tokyo, Japan
  • Reached Level 16 in Ingress
  • Specially invited to participate

The location restriction is no surprise, as Niantic has physical offices in both. It is unknown if the L16 requirement will persist outside closed beta.

[Update 17-Nov 16:30 ET – by Sean Graham]

Initially it appears that all L16 agents in the areas will be invited, however it’s not that simple. There will be a “training course” that the agent must take, as well as a test that must be passed, in order to prove that the agent “knows” what a good portal candidate is. If the agent fails the test they will not be eligible to participate until a later date (presumably after it leaves closed beta).

After the agent has passed the test and accesses the tool (a separate website like the mission creator tool is), they will be provided with portal candidates around their location.

Portal candidates processed through this tool will not go live immediately, or even automated. This closed beta is being used to calibrate and test the system. Presumably there will still be Niantic portal approvers who will have the final say during this phase.

One other interesting feature is that there will be a “faction” based score available on the portal recon home page. This will keep track of the number of candidates analyzed and submitted, and there will be a “checkpoint” once per day at midnight UTC.  This implies that it’s also tracked over time. We do not yet know if it is global, only in your areas, or cell based like the current scoring system. We can only hope that this score is somehow based on high quality reviews, and not just all reviews submitted.


(special thanks to a few SF Bay agents including Pete VR for the updated information!)

More PokéStops?

While more portals are introduced into Ingress, they will likely turn into PokéStops and Gyms at a later time. Locations for Pokémon GO likely will be under more of a microscope since the Pokémon GO phenomena. Some locations are very welcoming of Pokémon GO trainers, where some absolutely do not want it at their location. Unlike geocaching and Ingress, where one is secretly interacting with their environment, Pokémon GO is not so stealthy. We’ll have to see what considerations go into PokéStops/Gyms vs. the criteria needed to be an Ingress portal. It’ll also be interesting to see if Niantic ever offers this type of feature to Pokémon GO trainers, or if they’ll keep vetting new locations with seasoned Ingress agents.


Ingress 2.0

We’ve seen changes that hint at an Ingress 2.0, like with the new map tiling engine found in APK 1.108.1. There is also speculation surrounding the use of Unity  (what is used for Pokémon GO) vs LibGDX. In the interview with Tech Crunch, John Hanke said the following:

“The Ingress team is hard at work imagining what the next version of Ingress is going to be. We’ll have more to talk about there in the coming months… but I’ve seen some really exciting visualizations of how we want to evolve that game. We’re actively working on what will be the next incarnation of Ingress.”

This just further proves the existence of Ingress 2.0. It’ll be interesting to see what changes come to the game, and how different it’ll be from the Ingress we know today. Perhaps the along awaited new weapons for L9+ agents teased by Brandon Badger in 2014?



This new version of portal submissions is something the community has been requesting for a long time. Our cries have been heard and we’re super excited to see where this goes! We also are wondering if they will bring back the Seer medal, or if they also saw that incentive as having a negative impact on submission quality. Let’s see what new and exciting locations we can bring into the worlds of Ingress and Pokémon GO, starting with the massive backlog that exists first. After the backlog has been demolished, we’ll see how Niantic handles the brand new submissions.

Additional information added. – Sean Graham 11/17

Editorial edits completed. – Robert Walker 11/17

Screenshots added. – Fev 11/17