This is an excellent and informally written article covering both the Google Maps service and ensuing Google Maps mashup craze:
Google mapping out a strategy to make itself even more popular
Chicago Sun-Times - September 8th, 2005
When they close the books on 2005 and it's time to consider the 10 most important developments of the year in technology, Google Maps will certainly win at least two spots.
First, the company released Google Maps, a resource that put powerful, useful and eminently readable street maps and routing into the hands of anyone with a Web browser -- a huge upgrade over the previous state of affairs (mediocre maps in the hands of anybody who has 50 bucks, a Windows machine and low expectations for the printed results).
Pop in an address, get a map; Google Maps couldn't have been better.
Then Google chose to exercise the teach-a-man-to-fish option, and released the Google Maps API. When a company releases an API (Application Programming Interface), it is essentially handing the world the keys to the toy chest. Anyone who visits www.google.com/apis/ and clicks on a short and simple (ha!) agreement can, without charge, incorporate Google Maps technology into their Web sites and apps. The result has been an explosion of Google Maps "mashups," a term that I communicate to you, oh reader thirsty for knowledge and buzzwords, but which I flat-out refuse to endorse.
Giving something this simple and powerful its own buzzword does it a disservice. It implies that integrating a map into a Web page is something extraordinary and special, when in fact an embedded Google Map has every right to become as fundamental a part of the Web experience as text and graphics. (Read the entire article..)
...I especially like this quote about Google Maps Mania:
For more tools, and links to interesting uses of the Google Maps API, check out the unofficial Google Maps Mania blog (http://googlemapsmania.blogspot.com/), which provokes a reaction of, "Wow, you can actually do that?" from me at least once a week.