Thursday, June 30, 2005

Google sanctions mashups and hacks with Google Maps API

Google finally acknowledged the mash-up and hacking craze that Google Maps Mania has been spotlighting over the past several weeks. Coming on the heels of many unofficial Google Maps hacking guides, scripts and sites facilitating overlays from external sources to a Google Map, Google has released the following:


What is the Google Maps API? Here is what Google has to say:

The Google Maps API lets developers embed Google Maps in their own web pages with JavaScript. You can add overlays to the map (including markers and polylines) and display shadowed "info windows" just like Google Maps.

Here's the way Google will generate revenue from this:

The Maps API is a free beta service, available for any web site that is free to consumers. Google retains the right to put advertising on the map in the future. Please see the terms of use for more information.

It's smart of them. Google AdWords and AdSense is the primary revenue generator for them currently, so it makes sense to integrate their intelligent ad system into the maps tools that people will start creating and promoting.

You are required to sign up to make use of the API, and once confirmed you will have the ability to "legitimately" perform what we've to this point known as "hacks" since that is what developers have had to do to get into the Google Maps code and make these interesting tools. I'm hoping Google will create a nice way to showcase these, as keeping track of them is limited to tracking the launch of them the blogsphere at this point.

My question is this: With the arrival of the API, does this require the hacks to get "certified" with the API or risk Google telling them to shut it down? Does anyone know the answer to this?

The Google Maps API definitely ushers in a new era of Maps mashups.

Stay tuned.

Earth to Google.. come in Google.

It's been a busy few weeks for the Maps team over at Google. First came the expansion of Google Maps from it's North America and UK street maps and satellite views to the full monty - mapping the entire earth. The same zooming, grabbing and dragging that people marvelled over in North America and in the UK is now available in every major city and countryside everywhere around the globe. As if North American and UK satellite viewing didn't consume hours of your time already!

Have some fun with this new feature by visiting the original unique Google Maps views blog - Google Sightseeing. If you're
looking for suggestions, this blog is kicking with posts for unique world views from Hong Kong to Iraq.

In addition to the expanded world view there are many other changes which have arrived in this latest Google Maps release. Andrew Whitchcock has established this page which details them quite well, showing you screenshots of the before and after,

but here is a short list of highlights:

1. Road lines on the street maps have been made darker
2. Better realism in the street maps
3. Arrows added to street maps to indicate one-way streets
4. Building outlines of major landmarks
5. Larger tiles, less tiles to load
6. Andrew posts a good before and after example of downtown Seattle.

One other addition that is not mentioned here is that the map and satellite toggle buttons are now integrated right into the map tile image, not text-linked up at the top right of the page where it used to be:

Some bloggers have voiced some interesting geographical observations of this first Google Earth version:

"Particularly, there is nothing more than a rough map for both Cyprus and Russia."

"I'm not sure, but I'm betting the editors at Google aren't from Belgium.."

The one downside to exposing the new earth availability, the Google Maps tour doesn't contain any information on it.

Unfortunately for those not aware of the new expanded Google Maps features the Tour doesn't include any tips on trying out the entire earth and the zoom level always starts you off at a continental zoom. I know many people that use Google Maps that didn't even know this expanded availability even existed!

For Google at this point - all the world seems to be their oyster!

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Heading off on vacation..

As you've seen my postings have been a bit slow this past week as I've been away on business. They'll continue into the next week as I'm heading off for a week's vacation.

In keeping with the Google Maps spirit, here is where I'm going! :)


Friday, June 10, 2005 -> Help -> Maps -> Tour

I'm not sure why this isn't listed from, but here is a pretty thorough tour to help you learn the functionality within Google Maps. It's called Explore Google Maps.

New Google Maps hack: Nashville Sex Offenders

John Mora has created a new Nashville Sex Offender Google Maps hack that is similar to the one that was created in Florida earlier this week.

Warning: This tool sorts hundreds of entries and can be a real drag on your computer's resources. I ended up getting a funky error from Firefox when I tried the link. It ended up working but slowed my processor down a bit as it chugged away..


Google Maps with Frickin' lasers! is reporting the following:

Google plans to use trucks equipped with lasers and digital photographic equipment to create a realistic 3D online version of San Francisco, and eventually other major US cities. (Read the full story here)

Some bloggers have this to say:

I thought the satellite images in Google maps were pretty cool but this is getting out of hand.

When I heard that my first question was “how do they plan to do this?” Well a truck armed with laser and digital cameras that would make any Flickr user drool and float away.

Heh, I wonder if Flickr will do anything with 'frickin' lasers? "Flickr lasers".. (?Seen any Austin Powers movies?) Hehehe.. Okay, it's early, and it's a Friday. ;)

Insert a geotagging/geoview feature into your Rails app with Google Maps

'Overstimulate' has posted some instruction for "Rails" developers to have a Geotagging/Geoview comments feature in their applications. Check out this Jesse Andrew's work here (Contains the code necessary to implement)

- Read the original Google Maps on Rails post here.

Google Maps Wiki, Wiki, Wiki.


Q: What is a wiki?

A: The simplest online database that could possibly work.

Wiki is a piece of server software that allows users to freely create and edit Web page content using any Web browser. Wiki supports hyperlinks and has a simple text syntax for creating new pages and crosslinks between internal pages on the fly.

Wiki is unusual among group communication mechanisms in that it allows the organization of contributions to be edited in addition to the content itself.

Like many simple concepts, "open editing" has some profound and subtle effects on Wiki usage. Allowing everyday users to create and edit any page in a Web site is exciting in that it encourages democratic use of the Web and promotes content composition by nontechnical users.

definition: [via]

Now, onto the wikis.. :)

Here is a Google Maps Hacking Wiki..

Also, the Google Maps Mania blog has been list on the entry for Google Maps!

Make a Google Maps hack - get mentioned on CNN

Yesterday I reported the mainstream press carrying the Google Maps Associated Press story. CNN has carried this story as well but with a photo of Google Maps "masher" Adrian Holovaty.

Google tinkerers make data come alive
June 9th, 2005 -

Does anyone remember the term "microstar" that WIRED Magazine coined back in the 90's? This phenomenon is turning folks that are popular online (microstars) to well known figures to the public by their creations! Make a Google Maps hack - get mentioned on CNN! :)

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Google Maps team requests Google Maps Wallpaper Generator tool be taken down

Google Product Manager Bret Taylor had this to say about the Google Maps Wallpaper generator. (It has been taken down as a result):

The Google Maps team recently noticed your Google Maps tile "stitcher" wallpaper maker at Google is always happy to see developers interested in our products and we commend you on the service. That said, we would appreciate it if you voluntarily remove your service and stop using Google Maps on your web site. The service violates the Maps Terms of Service available at, and jeopardizes our ability to make Google Maps available to the public because it encourages non-personal use of Google Maps.

If you have any questions or concerns, or if we have contacted the wrong people, please feel free to contact me directly. Otherwise, please let us know as soon as possible when the service has been removed.


Bret Taylor
Product Manager, Google Maps

I didn't get a chance to make the wallpapers I wanted to in time! :)


Mainstream press promotes Google Maps hacks to the masses..

There have been a mainstream news headline floating around the web today pertaining to Google Maps hacks and mash-ups:

Google Maps Make Demographics Come Alive - June 9th, 2005

Tracking sexual predators in Florida. Guiding travelers to the cheapest gas. Pinpointing $1,500 studio apartments for rent in Manhattan. Geeks, tinkerers and innovators are crashing the Google party, having discovered how to tinker with the search engine's mapping service to graphically illustrate vital information that might otherwise be ignored, overlooked or not perceived as clearly. (Read the full story..)

If this link expires, there are many more links here..

Canadian Real Estate site competes with Craigslist/Google Maps hack


The real estate site looking to keep pace with the Toronto listings on (Craigslist mashup) has included a Map! option to display results.

Tracking sexual predators with Google Maps now includes a zip code search which allows you to find out where sexual predators are living in the state of Florida. Since all Google Maps hacks are a combination of the mapping tool and another source, this database of sexual predators comes from the Florida Sexual Offenders and Predators database.

This is continuing to be a hot topic within many communities where sexual predators who have served their sentences are returning to live. I think more often than not people in this society of ultra-protection and safety that we are living in, are always in favour of knowing where dangers and risks lurk.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Who's Who of Google Maps hacks to attend Where 2.0 Conference

The who's who of Google Maps hacks and mashups is going to be attending the O'Reilly Where 2.0 Conference.

Keynotes include:

  • Paul Rademacher, creator of the Google Maps-craigslist mash-up

  • Greg Sadetsky, who mashed-up Google Maps-Yahoo! Traffic

  • Panelists from Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo! face off over local search, moderated by John Battelle

  • New Zealander Philip Lindsay, who wrote the Google Maps Standalone Mode and myGmaps, is leading the charge for developers to build their own mash-ups

  • *sniff*, *sniff*.. Maybe I'll get invited next time.. ;) There are some other really interesting speakers and topics at this conference..

    Here is some information about the conference itself:

    Join us at the first Where 2.0 Conference June 29-30, 2005 in sunny San Francisco. Where 2.0 covers the movement of mapping and location technology from the theoretical to the masses, illustrating the creativity that's waiting to be unleashed as the tools and data become readily available. Sessions and panels will talk to real, deployed products (Google Maps, Yahoo!, MetaCarta, Microsoft) that combine a vision of the future with something to show right now.

    More information about the conference can be found here (includes a link to the conference wiki - COOL!). Is anyone going? If so, post a comment and a report from the conference for all Google Maps Mania readers to read!


    Google Maps and Internet Cameras

    The marriage of Google Maps with physical Internet camera locations holds incredible possibilities for bringing together the insane amount of ip-based traffic and general interest viewing cameras that are available for viewing around the web and the world.

    There are two good examples of this in action using GMapTrack. The first one that I mentioned last week includes the various traffic "jamcams" around London,
    England and the next features locations of Surveillance Cameras in Vancouver, Canada.

  • GMapTrack: London, England Jam-cam

  • GMapTrack: Vancouver, canada Surveillance Cameras

  • IMO, Google Maps is the ultimate interface for browsing and viewing Internet Cameras. With all other community information that is being plotted into Google Maps in the form of icons and "pushpins" this mapping tool is quickly becoming your real-world community information explorer.


    Dave Bouwman weighs in on Directions Mag "Open Letter"

    Dave Bouwman has voiced his comments on a previously mentioned GoogleMapsMania post. Directions Mag had posted an "Open Letter to GIS/Geospatial Software Companies" which, among other things, outlined why concepts like Google Maps has changed the expectation of the user for web-based mapping. Read the letter here.

    To quote Dave:
    "Hang on kids, because times, they are a changin'."

    Scott Andrew on why Google Maps wins..

    Scott Andrew voices some good points on why Google Maps is a winner:

    "...the winning feature is the user types the address into a single input box." (Read More)


    How to: Google Maps + Ruby on Rails

    Akuaku has compiled some code which will allow you to integrate Google Maps with any "Ruby on Rails" application. Here is the quick summary:

    I've got some code here that should let you pretty easily add custom google maps to your rails app. It's far from complete but it's enough to get you going.

    The following link contains the location to download the files required and instructions for setting it up in your Rails application directory.

    If you're a Rails developer you'll know what all this is about. If not, here is the Ruby On Rails site which details what rails is and how it works. Basecamp is a good example of a rails app.

    found [via]

    Monday, June 06, 2005

    Repost of Google Maps Wallpaper info

    UPDATE - June 9th, 2005:

    This tool has been removed at the request of the Google Maps team as of today. Read here for more..


    There has been a lot of buzz around the blogsphere lately regarding a Google Maps tool which I posted about back on 19-May. The tool is called Google Maps Wallpaper.

    From the previous post -

    You can choose from one of your own locations, or select from some of the more popular Google Sightseeing captures as well! This is a breakthrough tool for people that want to create Windows backgrounds or print images from Google Maps. Check out the tool.

    Yet another reason to stay tuned to GoogleMapsMania for the latest Google Maps buzz! ;)

    Apple Google Maps Plugin - 1.0

    Here is a plugin for Apple's Address Book to look up Google Maps of your addresses. I think I may have posted some initial discussion and a few links to this tool when it was first released, but here is a more organized page to visit to look at the tool, read user feedback and download it.

    Google Maps thoughts..

    The thoughts and discussion about the impact of Google Maps continues. Hit technorati, bloglines or feedster with the search term: "Google Maps" and you'll quickly see the abundant blog posts on the topic. Here are a few that are worthy of note..

    Users Accelerate Innovation

    (a quote from this posting)..

    Even so, the best innovations continue to come from “lead users” instead of from companies trying to figure out what the users actually want. That is, it’s not about someone recognizing a market, but rather someone needing something addressed, right now — and doing it themselves for themselves. Google Maps was a great innovation, but Google Maps + Craigslist, and Google Maps + GreaseMonkey, made it even better. As the tools for innovation become more accessible, the pace of individual innovation should begin to accelerate.

    Stefan Hayden discusses GMap Track:

    (a quote from this posting)..

    While gMapTrack still seems kinda of buggy it really looks like it will be as full featured as I had mentioned previously. I really wish google has taken the initiative and added this functionality themselves. It would have blended in nicely with their Google Account system they have going.

    Friday, June 03, 2005

    Google Maps spawns thoughts..

    The aim of this blog is to spotlight the tools and hacks that are being influenced by Google Maps as well as the ideas and things that come to mind when using the tool and seeing all the cool things that people are doing with it. Here are some thoughts by two bloggers:

    Jim Horton says the following in a recent posting on his 'Online Public Relations Thoughts' blog:

    It is apparent that with a little work, one could use the maps to plot history tours of town, for example with satellite photos that pick out structures where one should stop. This in a crude way is what Google sightseeing is doing except that individual satellite photos of interesting objects have been picked out and assembled in one place. One could develop a treasure hunt using Google maps and imagery as a publicity event. One could show company facilities in various cities around the US by plotting them on the maps and satellite imagery. There is no end of information that can be plotted onto the map and simultaneously on the satellite photo that accompanies it. Take a few minutes to wander through the sites on the "cool uses" page then let your imagination wander. (more)

    ..While over at Directions Magazine Adena Schutzberg and Joe Francica have written an "An Open Letter to GIS/Geospatial Software Companies":

    To quote #2:

    2) Expectations are changing. Once geospatially savvy (and perhaps more importantly geospatially non-savvy) people got a look at Yahoo! Maps, MapPoint and Google Maps, their expectations for Web mapping immediately changed. Those quaint, but slow and feature laden offerings from your customers (often towns, counties and states, but also the federal government and businesses) seemed years out of date. Why else would hackers spend so much time with Google Maps? Why else would bosses insist on solutions that look like, or in fact are, based on those solutions? Can you catch up and regain your customers (and your customersÂ’ customersÂ’) support? (more)

    This is a great article. Read all of it here..

    Both are good examples of the thoughts that are getting into the minds of people using Google Maps (and other tools like it) and what "directions" (no pun intended) they see things going as a result of this new open source mapping tool for the masses..

    Most recent Seattle 911 calls plotted on Google Maps

    Here's an interesting and impacting Google Maps overlay. See the most recent 911 Emergency calls and their specific locations around the city of Seattle, USA.

    "In my own opinion": Not since the webcam and perhaps the photo-blog has reality made it's way onto the Internet so quickly. This kind of stuff is what will push portability - PDA's, Smartphones, etc.. Before these services, you could wait. These kinds of services (traffic, taxi locations, emergency situations) will make you want to bring the Internet with you like never before.


    Google Ridefinder shows you real-time locations of taxis on Google Maps!

    Mauro Cherubini has pointed out that the previously mentioned Google Labs "RideFinder" project shows you the real-time locations of shuttles and taxis from it's mapping interface:

    Google ridefinder makes visual the search for a taxi. It shows in real time the positions of these transports using google maps. Eventually logging the information for a week shows the usage of the streets. This is of interest for having a glimpse on the usage of the urban space.

    -> Check out Google Ridefinder, choose a city and then click the "Update Vehicle Locations" button at the bottom of the map.

    Hmm - maybe sometime in the future we'll be able to plot real-time locations of people?! I see a new reality tv show in the making..... ;) (Anyone seen EdTV?)

    Wednesday, June 01, 2005

    Use your PlayStation Portable to view Google Maps

    Another great use for your PSP’s image viewing capabilities. You can use your PSP in conjunction with Google Maps to view, and zoom in and out of your favorite locations.


    Google Earth sneak peek and reviews!

    Brad Hill has tipped us off about the naming change from Keyhole to Google Earth as reported on this blog.

    Here is an excerpt from his most informative post about the existing and perhaps forthcoming service from Google:

    The Keyhole site does not yet reflect this name change, but an upgraded version of the Keyhole program will be called Google Earth, and will feature important enhancements of the current interface. If you have no tried Keyhole, I strongly recommend either doing so or planning to get it upon release of Google Earth, which might be less expensive or free. Keyhole/Earth provides a tremendous faux-flying experience unmatched by the still images in Google Maps, cool as they are. The Keyhole/Earth program is like the control panel of a personal flying machine, letting you cruise, dive, ascend, and tilt as you soar over the earthÂ’s terrain. The imagery database has been upgraded as already noted, so the resolution everywhere ranges from satisfying to spectacular.

    Importantly, Google Earth will implement greater integration with Google Local. This means that local search results can, in some cases, be overlayed upon the earthÂ’s terrain sweeping beneath the user. Driving directions will be mapped upon the satellite imagery, and Earth will follow the route automatically, as in a test drive.

    Here are some reviews also if you want to have a look at the new Google Earth interface. Some lucky Googlers were sent email and were invited to try it all out.

    Here is a review of Google Earth Beta with an absolutely flooring screenshot of the new interface. All I can say is Wow. And you thought Google Maps Satellite was cool!

    Here is an extensive review showing screenshots of the land rendering and 3D building viewing features. and Google Maps hack

    Take a roomful of programmers, a beta Google web service and the concept of geo-targeting singles and you have 4ppl +GoogleMaps. The service works by merging 4ppl's database of singles and overlaying it on top of Google's super GoogleMaps service. Enter in what you're looking for and your state and GoogleMaps returns a map with icons representing the location of the people in the 4ppl database. The sidebar has a list of the people displayed on the map, clicking on the username brings you to the person's profile at


    How-To: GmailMaps - Gmail and Google Maps integration


    Ever since I'd been working on various Google Maps hacks I'd been thinking, "Hmmm, I've done Gmail hacks and Gmaps hacks, what could I do that would combine both?".

    This page includes some very basic instructions for using an initial rough version of this functionality that only maps US State/Zip codes locations. (The current version is a bookmarklet, but it would be ideal for a GreaseMonkey script--which would solve some issues with the current version.)

    To take a look go here.


    BBC Backstage "stages" Google Maps mash-ups


    BBC Backstage
    has staged a few Google Maps "mash-ups" of their own.

    The first hack uses Gmaptrack and plots traffic cameras on a Google Maps overlay then pumps in a live camera feed. Pretty cool..

    The next one posts locations of local BBC news by county. A bit less interesting than the cams hack, but it is still a functional service.

    Both are pretty good examples of how the BBC is using Google Maps UK! Wondering what BBC Backstage is? Well, here you go: is the BBC's developer network to encourage innovation and support new talent. Content feeds are available for people to build with on a non-commercial basis.

    Found here and here

    GMapTrack launches to help you create Google Maps hacks

    GMapTrack seems to have crept up in the week that I was off! What a tool!

    Here is the description from the site welcome:

    gmaptrack allows you to create and place your own information onto Google Maps, and share with others.

    It is currently in beta, with the intention of showing the possibilities of Google Maps integration. It is not official or authorised by Google in any way, and relies on Google allowing third party access to their maps by others. For those who have read about the craigslist + Google Maps site, this site will allow you to create your own set of customised Google Maps.

    Now I'm just hoping this site sets up an RSS feed for it's user-created hacks! Get busy creating your Google Maps hacks, and be sure to post the ones that you create in the comments section!

    Google Maps How-To: embed Google Maps into your webpage

    David Bisset has tipped us off on a page which gives a good how-to on including Google Maps into your webpage.


    Google Maps hack plots North American earthquakes

    Scuttle has reported a new Google Maps hack which plots recent earthquakes in North America.


    Sorry for the absence!

    Hi all,

    Sorry for the recent absence. I was sent halfway across the globe to attend a tradeshow for work. It was very successful for the company that I work for. The trip from Toronto, Canada over to LA, USA gave me a chance to realize how awesome the satellite function on Google Maps really is by flying over the U.S.! However, upon landing in Australia, I'm wishing Google would hurry up and expand beyond North America with this feature! It looks like Google Earth may be that answer.

    I'm back again for a few weeks and ready to blast a bunch of posts to catch you up on the latest Google Maps hacks and mashups!