Google My Maps: Mashups For The Masses
Google has just launched “My Maps,” an impressively simple tool within Google Maps that allows users to create personal “mashups” and save or share those with friends or the world at large. A range of formatting options enables the maps to be highly customized and include images or video. Maps can be created “manually” by dropping placemarks on the map or through one-click saving of selected search results.
Here are some example maps created by Google employees as part of an internal contest using the product:
- Route 66
- 2004 U.S. Presidential Election results (nice illustration of some of the formatting capabilities)
- Olympic Host Cities
- Travel Guide for Kauai, Hawaii
In about 10 minutes I created this map: “Bars and Sushi Near SES Hotel.”
Microsoft Live Search Local/Maps and Ask City both offer aspects of the functionality being introduced with My Maps. Microsoft was first out of the gate with personal mashups, called “Collections.” Users can annotate, add photos (but not video) and save and share those personal mashups with others or the community. (Microsoft recently added new features and capabilities to Live Search Maps.)
Here are a series of Microsoft blog postings called “The 10 Minute Map”: Parts I, II, III. And here are “Best Vineyards in Oregon,” “Favorite Italian Restaurants in Seattle” and “London Universities” as example Collections.
With Google’s My Maps you don’t get the ability to work with Microsoft’s great Birds Eye or Virtual Earth 3-D imagery (in the browser) but the Google product is more flexible and intuitive than Microsoft Collections at the moment. And My Maps will allow publishing of your map (via a KML file) to Google Earth, which does offer 3-D rendering.
For its part, Ask allows users to create, save and share custom maps as well. One can define a customized search area, which is unique in the market currently, place push pins manually on maps and do considerable formatting. But the tool does not allow for the uploading of images or the creation of annotations for listings or maps generally. Here’s a customized map I created on Ask for Bars Near the Hilton in New York.
Ask City is quite a nice site and its maps are easy to use overall. I really like the custom search area too. It’s one of the best innovations in map-based local search in some time.
But Google has created something in My Maps that makes rich mashups truly accessible to non-developers. There are plenty of sites out there that are doing or seeking to do something similar — Platial is just one such site — however Google’s mainstream visibility will enable a mass audience to discover personal mashups quickly.
It remains to be seen how many people create their own maps with My Maps. But it’s a safe bet that the general ease of use will enable the creation of quite a few customized maps. Those maps will gradually be added to the Google Maps/Local index — initially called out as user-generated content — and may, over the long term, make it into Google.com results.
Assuming enough people take the My Maps mashups challenge, Google should get lots of valuable, non-standard local content and information, which should greatly enrich its database over time.
Postscript: The Google Earth Blog has a nice post up now talking more about KML integration; Ogle Earth has a post doing a drawing in Google Maps versus Windows Live Local comparison.]; Google Launches MyMaps from O’Reilly Radar focuses on how KML files from across the web are being found and associated with listings.
Postscript from Greg: As the postscript above indicates, Google is indexing all KML files in Google Maps, whether created through My Maps or any third party site.