Sunday, February 08, 2015

Happy 10th Birthday Google Maps

Google Maps is ten years old today. On 8th Feb 2005 Google Maps was released in the USA. Initially Google Maps only provided an interactive slippy map of the United States but other countries were soon added to the map (by 2006 Puerto Rico, Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan, and some cities in the Republic of Ireland).

In early April 2005 Paul Rademacher released the very first Google Maps hack - HousingMaps. Paul's mashup of Google Maps and apartment and housing listings from Craigslist proved that Google Maps could be much more than a useful online map but could also be a tool for amazing data visualizations.

Google embraced Paul's hack of Google Maps and in June 2005, Google released the Google Maps API. The Maps API provided a JavaScript library that enabled anyone to use Google Maps on their own websites.

Ten years later Google Maps and the Google Maps API are still going strong. However Google does now face much tougher competition. Apple Maps, Bing Maps, Here Maps and OpenStreetMap provide great alternatives to Google Maps. On the JavaScript mapping front Mapbox, Leaflet.js, Esri and other mapping libraries seem to have much more active development communities now than the Google Maps API.

Most of the development in Google Maps and the Maps API now seems focused on mobile devices. So where will Google Maps be in another ten years? I make no predictions, except to say that I think Google Maps will probably still be one of the market leaders but will probably not enjoy the almost monopolistic position it has held over the last ten years. I'm less confident about the Google Maps API, as it seems to be fast becoming an irrelevance in the world of map development.
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