Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Google Maps mashups - where now, where next?

In between the flurry of new Google Maps mashups being posted here on Google Maps Mania, let's stand back for a moment and take a look at what countries we're enjoying Google Maps mashups and integrations from currently and where they might come from next.

When Google first released its beta 'Maps' product back in February of 2005 there was suddenly a serious competitor and some might an argue all out Mapquest killer in North America. An alternate tool to look up addresses and directions now existed. With the presence of these street maps now available in the United States and Canada, It didn't take long for people to exploit the open source nature of Google Maps by "hacking up" the maps and combining them with other data sources on the web. The Google Maps hack has since graduated to a 'mashup' or 'integration' now that Google has since "legalized" the practice of tinkering with their mapping code via the Google Maps API. This API has enabled anyone with an Internet connection to develop a location based mapping service. When Google released the API, hacks became mashups and we entered a new phase in the history of the web.. It was Google Maps Mania!

In the months to follow Google has released its street mapping views to the UK and Japan along with a world map that includes satellite views for most locations on the planet. Google Maps mashups started to appear in these countries as well. With the help of 'nagoyan the earthopper' we're staying up to date with the best of the Google Maps Japan mashups described for us in English in 'A Japan View'. Luistxo has also signed on as a contributor to help us learn about Spanish language mashups in 'A Spanish View'.

Sporadic maps mashups have also cropped up in places like Brasil, Australia, Spain and Taiwan. These countries have had to settle for satellite views as a backdrop since street mapping is not yet available in these countries. This makes map mashups from these locations somewhat limited due to the user not being to relate to placenames and streets. Sites with collections to interesting Google Maps satellite views are delivering the fix for web-mapping enthusiasts in countries like Brasil and Australia for the time being. A look across these sites to the number of "Google sightseeing" links shows quite a concentration in Australia and Brasil. Based on the interest in Google Maps Mania from these countries (in my site visit stats) and such a high number of user-submitted satellite views on these 'collections' sites, it clearly shows that these two countries are prime for the next level of Google Maps that Japan, the UK and North America have already enjoyed.

This lack of Google Maps mashups in places other than street-mapped countries is proof that street maps equal Google Maps mashups or integrations. The Google Maps API to create these mashups can only go so far in these places without this level of detail to make the mashup or integration useful. So why doesn't Google release street mapping to these other countries? Some insight can be found in a quote from Google's Lorraine Twohill in a discussion with BBCWorld Clickonline about Google Local, a Google service which uses the street mapping data to display local business listings:

"It actually isn't that difficult to add other countries. We have the content already, it's just a question of when we're ready as a business and when we can actually make it a practical application.

We're obviously going to roll Local out to new markets. There's many components to Local; one major component is your partner in terms of listings. We're obviously talking to key partners in each country. There's a lot of work around bringing Local and maps as a combined entity to a marketplace."
(more)

So as Brasilians and Aussies sit on the edge of their seats salivating at the prospect of receiving another layer of Google mapping for their country, we'll all continue to enjoy the mashup tidal wave that is taking place in street-mapped countries. What country will Google bestow the honour to next? Will it be China that has just seen a beta launch of a localized version of Google Local? Or will it be Brasil or Australia?

Whatever country it is, be ready the next onslaught of Google Maps mashups and integrations to start to cascade across the web. Whenever it happens, Google Maps Mania will be here to find all the good stuff for you.. Stay tuned.

Mike Pegg
Producer, Google Maps Mania


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