Google map API transforms the Web

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.

TOPICS: Google

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.

Topic: Google

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  • Open Source?

    Don't confuse the Google API for open source.. its not. Google themselves say that they want developers to embrace the API and start creating KML files to facilitate data sharing etc... the code, however, is not Open Source. The API enables users to embed the mapping product in apps and add data - users cannot extract data for use in their GIS nor are they encouraged or allowed to do so. (cheers.. Glenn -
    • The code is freely available

      When code is released and made freely available to the community, that's open enough for me.
      • An API is NOT source

        Publishing an open API is what we used to call in the old days "open architecture." It means that other programmers can ACCESS your code and work with it. It does NOT mean that others can see, use, modify, or freely distribute your source code, all of which are required to make it "Open Source." The fact that the interface is published, and that there are coding examples made available, is not the same thing.

        To qualify as "Open Source," Google would have to release the code that runs on their server, so that someone else could use the same code for BloggerBoy's Map API, or similar. Open Source gives the body of the work itself into the public trust, instead of just cooperating with the programming world and encouraging them to cooperate with you.

        Of course, open architecture is very fine, and Google is to be commended for encouraging others to access their service (even if they are doing it to drive additional traffic their way, and expand their hegemony over "pure" information on the internet. ;^)
  • Nothing new... ViaMichelin does much better !

    The Google stuff looks great... but has nothing really new. You should better try ViaMichelin Web Services. As a developer I have never found such a great mapping platform !
  • I agree completely

    I think the new google maps api is going to be huge. Maps are useful to anyone's web site and to allow it to be used free by web developers is amazing. And leave it up to Google to create the ability for direct advertising without being in the consumers face with it. They haven't started doing the advertising with the US yet, but they done some with Japan. Very cool stuff.

    I am using the map api for my real estate web site at and it has really made the site much better and more interactive with the user.