Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A Summary of the Google Geo Developer Day

On June 12th I took part in the first Google Geo Developer Day. Here is a summary of the day (Photos are here)..

I'm now back at my home after returning from the Google Geo Developer Day at the Googleplex in Mountain View, California. What an awesome day! I met LOADS of great people; I had lunch with Google's CEO Eric Schmidt and Google Earth CTO Michael Jones and also met the first Google Maps mashup creator Paul Rademacher of HousingMaps fame (who is now employed by Google). Others in attendance included the Tagzania, CommunityWalk, Flagr and Panoramio teams along with the geo developers at VLogMap.org, MiamiBeach411, Maps.Huge.Info, Maps.Webfoot.com.

The Google Maps breakout session was the first chance to meet the entire team that makes Google Maps possible. I've posted a photo so you can have a look. Most of this team, with the exception of Jessica and Thai (first two on the left) are all based out of the new Googleplex in Sydney, Australia and made the trip up for the Geo Developer Day. Lars Rasmussen, lead engineer for Google Maps, was in New York to accept an award at the Webby Awards for Google Maps. The Maps team took the geo developers in the room through an overview of the API including some background, including an acknowledgement that when the API was released last year it was in fact catching up to what people like Paul Rudamacher (housingmaps) and Adrian Holovaty (ChicagoCrime) had done by exploiting the code of Google Maps and creating Google Maps hacks. Bo (at a loss for his last name), prime on the new geocoder, ran through some of the features. He mentioned the obvious point of the geocoder being a missing ingredient from the Maps API and he also mentioned that while the UK is missing today from the list of countries that has the geocoding capabilities, it shouldn't be long. This will be an exciting time since there doesn't exist solid external geocoding services on the web for the UK and Ireland. The Maps team has posted a message on the Google Maps API Blog with lots more information on the day's announcements.

A question posed during the Q&A asked where Maps and Earth are headed "together". Google sees the two products separate and are merely "two different browsers on top of the same mapping database". This is an interesting statement given the online mapping arms race taking place between competitors such as Yahoo! and Microsoft as well as rumors that Google might be joining the browser wars. In the geo-spatial web, it appears that Google is already setting the standard as the geo-browser of choice with Google Earth and Maps as a downloadable and web "browser" to geo-web-info.

My showcase presentation of Google Maps mashups seemed to be well received. For those of you interested in what mashups I presented, here is the list:

WeatherBonk, Dartmaps, World Cup News Map, Where's Tim, Wikimapia, BeerHunter, If The Earth Were a Sandwich - Find the Opposite Tool (I had planned on also showing these but didn't get the chance since I was short of time): ShakinDave, EBay Real Estate, Alkemis Local

After the day's product announcements, showcase and breakout sessions Google held a great outdoor BBQ for the participants of the day. The sun finally made an appearance after the 3 days it had been hiding behind the Pacific cloud. A band played, table tennis and a ball-launch carnival game entertained while tables of great food, an ice tub of beer and ice cream station pleased. There was nothing held back from this day. Google put on a world class event. I had a great time taking part, sharing Google Maps Mania and meeting some great people.
Photos from the day are here:


Related from the day:
Luistxo from Tagzania's Flickr photos from the day..
Matt Savarino's Flickr photos from the Googleplex..
Gus from MiamiBeach411 talks about his experience (with photos)..
Blog Post: Where 2.0 Warmup
Flickr user 500Hats has 3 pics from the day here..
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