Google map API transforms the Web

Summary:We are getting a great demonstration right now of open source power, as applications using the Google Maps API begin to appear.Mapquest, owned by AOL, has been around for many years, but it's a proprietary offering.

We are getting a great demonstration right now of open source power, as applications using the Google Maps API begin to appear.

Mapquest, owned by AOL, has been around for many years, but it's a proprietary offering. Yahoo Maps has been around for years, but it has been late to this party.

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.

Topics: Google

About

Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist since 1978, and has covered technology since 1982. He launched the Interactive Age Daily, the first daily coverage of the Internet to launch with a magazine, in September 1994.

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