Google Maps has only really been around for a few months (it launched in February 2005), but it has already caused a significant amount of interest amongst various Internet communities. Although it is still in beta state, many people (myself included) have spent a long time discovering all the little nuances such as interesting places to investigate, mistakes and how to use Google Maps to show personalised information.
Google Maps News
Google Earth was released to the world during July. It provides the same satellite information as is available on Google Maps, but with the added feature of it being in 3D with the satellite images draped over a 3D landscape. Some cities in America also have 3D building models for you to explore. However, the interface is clunky and it's somewhat frustrating when the area that you want to look at is not available at high-resolution. It's also only recommended for those with broadband connections.
There are several versions of Google Earth available: a free version with just the basic functionality; Google Earth Plus ($20/year) which allows you to import your own data onto the maps and to print high resolution images; Google Earth Pro ($400/year) for commercial use; as well as other enterprise versions.
Google Maps API
Google obviously realised that lots of people wanted to build their own applications around the Google Maps data, so they have released an API to let you create and manipulate your own Google map. You need to sign up for a license key; anyone who previously hacked their own apps will probably want to rewrite them using the official API.
However, the API is still in "beta" state, meaning that Google are likely to release new versions frequently. They don't recommend using the API for mission-critical stuff just yet!
Google Maps looks up - Google Moon provides the same interface to an image of the surface of the moon, including locations of the various Apollo landings. Try zooming in as far as you can!
Finding Interesting Things
Several websites have sprung up recently which try to list links to maps of all the interesting things and places that you can find on Google Maps - mainly the satellite imagery. These include such things as famous monuments or landmarks, airports, ships, interesting field patterns, forest fires or even traffic jams! Here are some links to other sites listing interesting Google Maps things:
- Google Maps Landmarks
- As Good As Being There
- Earth From Google
- Google GlobeTrotting
- Google Landmarks UK
- Google Sightseeing
- Interesting Google Satellite Maps
Hacking Google Maps
Note, that since Google released an official API to their maps, some of this information may well be superseded. I recommend you use the API as it provides significantly more functionality.
Well, perhaps hacking isn't quite the right word, but lots of people have been frustrated by features that aren't there yet on Google Maps. So they write the features themselves! Hacks vary from simple bookmarklets to show the latitude and longitude of the centre of the map or to follow a route automatically, through to complex systems to collect and disseminate information to show reported crime in your neighbourhood or bus routes and stops. Here are some links to some other sites that use Google Maps in different ways:
Bookmarklet Hacks and How-Tos
- Google Maps Hacking and Bookmarklets
- Google Maps Standalone Mode
- Google Maps Weather Bookmarklet
- mygmaps.com - create your own personal Google Maps
- Latitude/Longitude Bookmarklet - show the latitude and longitude of the centre of the current map
- Unofficial Google Maps Embedding How-To
Sites that use Google Maps
- 4ppl.com - US dating service
- BBC UK News - shown on a Google Map!
- BBC UK Sport - also shown on a Google Map
- Cytadia - Canadian real-estate
- Boston MBTA map on Google Maps
- Chicago Transit Authority map on Google Maps
- Florida Sexual Predators
- Google Maps tile stitcher - an example of overstepping the terms and conditions
- Google Ride Finder - find taxis in many US cities in real time
- Google Maps and Terraserver Topographic Images - see height contours using Google Maps
- gTraffic.info - Real-time UK traffic alerts
- Miami Real Estate Locator
- Piggy-Bank - FireFox extension to make your browser search the semantic web
- Rain City Real Estate Guide
- Seattle Bus Monster - Real-time bus and travel information for Seattle
- Zoto - Geotagging community
© 2000-05, Jonathan Stott.
08 Dec 2019 11:36:57