Mashups are definitely a hot (or cool) area of web development, with all the major mapping providers trying to make their tools accessible to ordinary people so that we can all create them. Of the big mapping providers, Microsoft’s Virtual Earth platform is the easiest for “regular people” to use. But independent sites like Platial and Wayfaring (both built on the Google Maps API) make it possible for you and I to create our own mashups quite easily.
The following is a quick survey of some of what others have done using the Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft platforms. From Mike Pegg, who writes Google Maps Mania, and who presented a range of mashups on Google Geo Developer Day:
- World Cup News Map
- If The Earth Were a Sandwich – Find the Opposite Tool
- EBay Real Estate
- Alkemis Local
Here are some selections from Yahoo!’s API/Mashups Gallery:
And here are a couple of “collections” (mashups by regular people, not developers) that Steve Lombardi from Microsoft pointed out to me:
One response to all this is, “where’s the business model?” And sometimes that’s my response. But another way to look at the emerging phenomenon of people building all these maps is as an expression of creativity. Human beings are fundamentally creative and, as adults, we don’t often get the opportunity to express that creativity – if our jobs haven’t sucked it out of us.
So in one sense, there doesn’t have to be a business model. Not everyone’s company is going to get bought for $30 million or $580 million. But it’s still fun to create these applications, which may bring value to people lives or at least provide some welcome amusement and distraction.
And as the tools become easier and easier to use, which is the stated intention of everyone I’ve spoken with from Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft and MapQuest, you’ll see people doing all kinds of interesting things with maps.