Picking the best Google Maps of the Year is incredibly difficult. In picking my favourite Google Maps of 2011 I am in no doubt that I have forgotten some exceptional Google Maps - but, for what it's worth, here are the maps that most impressed me this year.
New Media Companies
This year the quality in design and usability of Google Maps based application seems to have taken a huge step forward. This is in part due to the impact of innovative new media companies such as Vizzuality and Ubilabs. Both of these companies consistently produce outstanding Google Maps that nearly always make it into my Google Maps of the Week round-up.
This year's Ubilabs releases included Die Asphaltsurfer, Swiss Post - Running View and Blitzer.de.
Vissuality's releases included DontFlush.me and El Microscopio del Voto (Spanish election results).
Newspapers around the world continue to produce excellent Google Maps applications to help illustrate news articles. The New York Times continues to lead the way in producing stunning map visualisations. This year the Times' maps included Destruction in Haiti, Then and Now, NYT: Where I Was Map, How Manhattan’s Grid Grew.
An honourable mention must also go to German newspaper Zeit for Verräterisches Handy. This Google Map mapped the location data collected from one man's mobile phone over six months.
Many of the most innovative uses of Google Maps this year were released as part of marketing campaigns. Amongst the best marketing maps were RCZ View (Peugot), Gran Turismo 5, Levi's Roadwear and MINI Maps
HTML5 & WebGL
Developments in web technologies continues to open up new possibilities in online mapping. Amongst the best maps using cutting edge web developments were Urban Arteries, Grand Theft Auto IV - Custom Street View and Chaos in Your Town.
You don't have to have a huge web team behind you to create a great Google Map's based application. Individual developers can still have inspired ideas that grab the attention of web users around the world.
My favourite 'viral' maps this year were #rorschmap, Street Views Patchwork and ExtendNY - New York City Expanded.
And Finally .... The Winner is ....
In the end my favourite Google Map of this year was not so much a map as a full scale media event. Hurtigruten: Minute by Minute was a week long live broadcast by Norwegian Public Service broadcaster NRK of the voyage of the cruise liner Hurtigruten around the Norwegian coast.
As well as amazing live TV footage of the voyage, for 134 hours users of the application could follow the position of the cruise liner live on a real-time Google Map. There was something truly amazing about being able to follow the ship live on Google Maps and watch the live TV broadcast as Norwegians came out in droves along the coast to celebrate as the ship sailed by.
So What do You Think?
So that's my personal choice of the best Google Maps of the Year. The chances are that most of you will disagree with my selection. So feel free to leave a comment about your personal favourite Google Maps of 2011 .....