Your Maps, Your Style – Customizable Google Maps With Click2Map

click2map

click2mapWith Streetview and Earth, Google’s mapping solution is by far the best out there. It makes sense that it finally beat map pioneer Mapquest in terms of traffic. With MyMaps, anyone can create maps to promote their business, or to share some geographical knowledge.

MyMaps made it really simple for anyone to create maps, maybe too simple: you can create markers that contain descriptions and media files, but that is pretty much it. Mapping is like blogging, it is about sharing a knowledge with the rest of the world, and just like blogging, anybody should get the attributions he deserves.< Where MyMaps stops, Click2Map begins: Click2Map is the rich Google Maps editor that I often covered on this blog. With Click2Map, you can customize your markers, password-protect your maps, create thousands of markers and manage them from a personal database, auto-cluster your markers, do batch operations, …

Yesterday, the team released a new feature that will definitely tease your curiosity: You can now fully customize the look & feel of your Google Maps!

You could already play around with the design of your maps before publishing them with Click2Map, but the customization tool wasn’t going that deep, and you had to press ok in a dialog box before seeing the changes. Now You can control all the aspects of the map: Fonts, background colors, border colors, sidebar elements, monetization. For some paying accounts, you can even append a url and an email address in the footer of the map.

I did a video for the team, showing all the new features, so I might as well just let the video do the talking:

It is the first time that a service makes the customization of Google Maps available to anybody. This is not Click2Map’s most robust feature, but it is one of the most seducing. I highly recommend playing around with it: You’ll find yourself liking the result and embedding it on your site in no time 😉

As you can see below, I embedded a map that respects the colors of my blog. Pretty neat!



Google Maps SEO Is Real

Today, an engineer of Google Maps reminds on the Google Latlong blog that user-generated content will get blended into maps and distributed across the Google Search pages.

Some of our more regular users may have noticed that we’d been sparingly doing this for a while now, occasionally surfacing results from KML, GeoRSS, or Wikipedia we crawl from the web, along with photos and videos we think would be useful – but now we’ve opened the floodgates! From now on, you can expect to see more higher quality user-created content to show up, often intermixed with our traditional results.

In other words, just create maps, Google will find them and index your content if it thinks your content adds value to the Google geo-search experience.

Read the full article on the Click2Map blog.

Incubate Google Maps With Geocubes

One day, our online experiences will evolve around our location in space, instead of just our keyword queries and search history. As of today, mapping tools are still pretty basic and not so easy to play with. MyMaps was a move towards user-generated maps. The first obvious concern from this initiative was the maps’ markers overload, or crowded maps.

I already blogged about Click2Map and its auto-clustering feature. Lately, another provider stepped in with an original solution for crowded maps: Geocubes. Geocubes will slurp in your geodata, create markers on a Google Maps, and cluster those markers into cubes:

Geocubes clusters geo-referenced data into squares showing the number of points in the area. This allows a visitor to zoom into the squares and see the results.
This avoids indistinct point-clouds. To achieve this, geocubes displays an overlay over the Google Map integrated into the page. Like the underlying map, the geocubes overlay is requested by the client through a JavaScript command.

To compare this with Click2Map clustering feature, the Geocubes feature is very appealing in terms of design. The experience is actually very different: When you click on a Geocubes’ cube, it zooms in to stretch the map and show the withheld markers. When you click on a Click2Map’s cluster point, it pops a window open to show a scroll down list of the withheld markers.

For each movement in the map – zoom or scroll – both map and geocubes overlay are fetched again. So the whole process runs perfectly in combination with Google Maps – and it is just as easy to integrate!

Geocubes’ design has some merit, and it is worth playing around with it, mostly since the service will be fully free up until February 28th. It lacks other types of products that existing Google Maps third-party developers have already built, but maps’ navigability is still the number 1 issue when it comes to mainstreaming mapping tools, so any new contestant in this space is more than welcome to join the party.

A Quick Overview Of APIs Today

API chart pie nov 08

Today, I am meeting Oren Michels, the Founder and CEO of Mashery. Mashery is the leading provider of API management services.

Ebay was the first company to launch an API back in 2001. Since then, the adoption growth has been pretty slow, until social networks like Facebook and Twitter started to play the open data game. The release of the Google Maps API also catapulted a number of new mashup projects.

To prepare the interview with Oren, I have studied Mashery’s background a little bit (the job of a reporter). My researches started with Sexywidget‘s insightful review of last week’s API conference. The blog’s author Lawrence Coburn details the 6 different existing business model that can be applied with an API. A click away from this article, on ZDnet, Dion Hinchcliffe offers a complete understanding of the evolution of APIs, and explains why it has become essential for any web-based company to consider building an API.

new web distribution models

Yet another click away, John Musser of ProgrammableWeb celebrates the 1,000th API of ProgrammableWeb’s API list. Since ProgrammableWeb tracks all those different APIs, it is able to deliver serious metrics on APIs’ usage:

API chart pie nov 08

Finally, the team from Social Web TV brings us this punchy little video (at the top of this article), where John McCrea invites Clay Loveless, Mashery’s chief architect, to participate to the show:

The Web is going Social, and the Social Web is going open, I see Mashery’s fitting in as a logical service layer to that…

Why Hating The Geo-Location Feature On Friendfeed?

friendfeed

VentureBeat reported two days ago that Friendfeed quietly enabled the geo-location tagging feature on the feeds that transit through their powerful RSS management system. The article on VentureBeat isn’t very spicy, but if you head over to The Inquisitr, Duncan Riley offers a livelier reaction to this new addition:

It’s like when everyone on Twitter started using BrightKite and posting to their Twitter stream exactly where they were at that moment. Sorry but I couldn’t care less where you are any point in the day let alone in a play by play fashion and I really don’t see the need to broadcast where I am when I post something.

The Techcrunch ex-blogger doesn’t see the value of geo-locating blog posts, arguing that most of the time, the location where the post was written is totally irrelevant to the post itself.

Over at All Points blog, Adena Schultzberg brings up an interesting point that I haven’t seen mentioned on Mashable, The Inquisitr or VentureBeat:

Why might FriendFeed add geo? One founder is Bret Taylor, once Google Maps Product Manager.

Touché! Because the Friendfeed team was on fire these past few weeks, releasing tons of new features, doesn’t mean that they are just gadgetizing the social RSS platform. I found the automatic Twittering feature as a great strategical move towards the next microblogging trend. For example, Louis Gray says

The map shows I posted from Sunnyvale, but it’s not relevant to the post.

Well I do not entirely agree. It gives another depth to the post: It informs me where the writer is located. This is culturally very valuable. For example, it is well known that techies in the Silicon Valley have their own perception of the greatness of the Web 2.0 trend, and maybe I am not interested in knowing what a Californian thinks on this specific topic. Another example: Wall Street is going through tough times these days, and I want to read all the blog posts that contain specific keywords, AND that were posted in Manhattan. Geo-location becomes pretty powerful!

Now how would that apply for Friendfeed? I could easily see Friendfeed power other media sites with social sidebars displaying things like “What are people saying about homelessness in San Francisco?” (and you target all the tweets geo-located in San Francisco that withhold the keyword homeless), “What do people read in Paris?” (Delicious/Paris), or Amsterdam’s favorite videos (Youtube/Amsterdam)… I know that the bloggers I mentioned above are well aware of the implications of the geo-located Web. This is exactly why I find it interesting to witness such a negative reaction to such a positive evolution in our access to information.