We are getting a great demonstration right now of open source power, as applications using the Google Maps API begin to appear.
It's Google, using the open source process, that has blown the field apart.
The code has only been out a few weeks but already we're seeing several really great applications.
Here's one. Metrofreefi previously offered just lists of free hotspots in various cities, like many other sites. Now, with the Google Maps API, you click the interactive map to reach a state, pull down a menu to get the city, and see exactly where those hotspots are. Here's the map for Decatur, Georgia, near where I live. It's not yet perfect. There's a coffee shop on the east side that is listed but not "pinned."
Here's a sadder but wiser application. Geepster managed to put together a quick map and RSS feed on the London attacks, within a few hours of the blasts. The resulting page was far more attractive, and informative, than most news services, even that of the BBC, from which it took its news feed.
Now that site has been further improved, using the satellite view of London available from Google. You can right-click on the pins in the map to learn more. Here's where the King's Cross bomb went off. Here's where the page author lives. Here is Tavistock Square, with a picture of the ruined bus.
Google Maps enabled open source journalism to get the story faster, and get it better, than the mainstream media. That's because individuals were ready and able to use the API right away, and trust the results in ways even the BBC was reluctant to try.
And remember, this is just the start. I guarantee that hundreds of programmers are now poring over the Google Map API documentation, thinking about applications that will drive both them, and Google, to new heights.
All on the wings of open source.