Google Chart API now does maps

US chart of where I’ve livedThe Google Chart API has just released a new version. Among the new features:

  • No limit on the number of requests.
  • Support for maps! USA state maps, other country maps, world maps, etc.

It’s quite slick. Click on the image on the right to see a chart of the states I’ve lived in (the lighter the color, the longer ago I lived there). The chart was built by simply crafting this URL.

There are some neat possibilities with this, especially since you don’t need to worry much about usage. More information can be found on the Mapperz blog or by reading the official Google Chart API documentation.

MapQuest keeps trying, but still can’t get it quite right

I’ve been quick to give MapQuest credit for effort, as they’re really trying to catch up the big boys now that their lead is quickly shrinking.

Yesterday they introduced live traffic. It looks very similar to the traffic info on Google Maps, but with more detailed information. The screenshots look pretty nice:

MapQuest Traffic: MiamiMapQuest Traffic: Miami

Here’s the problem — it didn’t work right away. I refreshed and reloaded and zoomed around for a while before I could make the “Traffic” checkbox appear. I later found another page on their site that gives more information about this feature. I thought I might find the answer there, but instead I found this:

Traffic List to Come

Fortunately, they mark the traffic-enabled cities with a traffic light, in a virtually identical manner as Google. A quick glance seems to show that they have more cities than Google, but not by a wide margin.

The real test, of course, is who gives better data? Here is a side-by-side shot of Atlanta using Google Maps and MapQuest:

Google Maps vs. MapQuest for Atlanta traffic

Assuming their data is accurate, the clear winner appears to be MapQuest. Google has much of the highway in gray (“no data”), while MapQuest is showing data for everything. In addition, MapQuest has the clickable icons so you know exactly what the problem is.

For me, however, 95% of my Google Maps traffic usage is from my cell phone while I’m on the road — Google Maps Mobile is very useful. As far as I know, MapQuest has nothing to compare to that. With that in mind, Google Maps will still be the winner by default for when I’m on the road, but I might give MapQuest a try next time I check traffic info from the house.

Edit 10:08pm, 3/18/08 – MapQuest does have a mobile product to compare to Google Maps Mobile, and it’s called MapQuest Navigator.  It appears to be a little better than GMM, but it costs $50/year and works on a rather small selection of phones.

Add new locations to Google Maps

A while back, Google Maps gave people the ability to edit the locations of businesses.  If you know of a local business that has moved or closed, you can edit it on the map.  These screens show me removing a local Dairy Queen that recently closed:

Find Dairy Queen listingDairy Queen information bubbleEdit Dairy Queen listingRemoving Dairy Queen

Now they’ve enhanced the user editing feature of Google Maps and now allow you to add new items to the map.  I wanted to add one, but the few new places near us were already in there.  However, adding a new location is very easy:

  • Search the listings.
  • Click the “Add a place to the map” link at the bottom of the left column
  • Drag the marker to the location of the business, fill in the details, and submit it.
  • That’s it!

Here are a few screens of how that would be done:

Click the Add button in the lower left cornerDrag the marker to the proper location and fill in the info

With any of those editing features, Google still keeps a copy of the original listing, along with a record of each change that is made.  All of this will only serve to make the data in Google Maps even more accurate for everyone to use.

Read an entire magazine in Google Maps

ZkimmerThis is a very creative use of Google Maps — all of the pages of a magazine tiled onto the surface of the map, to let you zoom and skim through the entire thing.

The site is Zkimmer.  It’s certainly a unique concept, though I have to question the usefulness of it.  I think there are a lot of interfaces for reading a magazine that are superior to this.  However, I think that this site was probably going for more “unique” than “useful”, which I’d tend to agree with.

One thing that would help is if they enabled the scroll wheel on my mouse.  In Google Maps (and many Google Map applications), I can use the scroll wheel to zoom in and out. On this site, it doesn’t work.   A concept like this involves a lot of zooming, so this would make it much easier for me to use.

Google Maps Mania has more information.

MapJack adds new city: Sausalito, CA

MapJackMapJack, a service that is very similar to Google Maps StreetView, has just added Sausalito, CA to their site.  This now brings them up to a total of three cities: Sausalito, San Francisco (CA) and Chiang Mai (Thailand).  Certainly an interesting mix.

Their site is remarkably similar to StreetView, but it’s nice to see them still pressing forward.  The pressure they feel from Google must be incredible.

StreetView Easter Egg – Leprechaun

Google has put a fun little Easter egg into Google Maps StreetView. The little StreetView man has been replaced by a little green leprechaun, sitting on a clover. When you drag him around, he’s trailed by a rainbow.

It’s a few days early, but it’s a fun little change.  Thanks to Googling Google for the link.

StreetView Leprechaun: Full ViewStreetView Leprechaun: Zoomed InStreetView Leprechaun: Rainbow

Many layers updated in Google Earth

It’s not a much-loved imagery update, but this one is still pretty useful. This update for Google Earth/Maps includes:

  • New road data in 94 countries
  • New business listings in Russia and Brazil
  • Support for Russian Cryllic or latin translated addresses
  • New Zealand tourism layer
  • Updates to the geographic web layer, such as wikipedia and Panoramio. In addition, it appears that the Panoramio pictures will be updated daily, rather than every month or two.

More information can be found at the Google Earth Blog or the Google LatLong Blog. Here are a few photos from the LatLong Blog entry:

Google Earth New Zealand UpdateGoogle Earth Updated Roads and Panoramio

Google Launches Sky Online

Google has just released a version of Google Sky that can be viewed in your browser, very similar to Google Maps.

The interface is very similar to Google Maps, but with some sky-based changes. The main change is that the tools which are normally “Map”, “Satellite” and “Terrain” have now become “Backyard Astronomy”, “Infrared”, “Microwave” and “Historical”. I think they’re pretty self-explanatory.

Enough talk — go check it out! Here are some screens if you just want a quick peek:

Google SkyGoogle SkyGoogle Sky

Updates — A few other sites have more detailed reviews of this product:

MapQuest is trying to catch back up

MapQuest LogoIt’ll be a hard road (if not impossible) for MapQuest to try to catch up to Google, Yahoo and Microsoft in the maps race, but they’re doing their best.

I guess I should say what I mean by “catch up”.  In terms of usage, they still have a remarkable lead.  In January they still had just over 50% of US visits, with Google in second place at 22%.  Given how crappy their system has been when compared to the others, those are some staggering numbers.  Branding goes a long way…

Despite the great numbers, Google is quickly gaining ground.  MapQuest knows they have to do something or they’ll be dead before too long.  As part of that, they’ve just released “MapQuest Platform“.  It sounds pretty slick:

  • Support for a wide variety of programming languages including Java, C++, .NET, JavaScript, Adobe ActionScript.
  • Aerial/hybrid views
  • Smart rollovers, that move and resize as necessary based on the content in the window.
  • Smooth zoom
  • Flickable maps that continue to pan, similar to Google Earth
  • Shape ovelays
  • Geocoding
  • A variety of other things

All in all, it’s a very nice upgrade.  However, it still falls far short of the power of any other other three platforms.  As a developer, I have absolutely no interest in using them for building a mashup, as Google already handles it far better and I’m already more familiar with their tools.

That being said, MapQuest has to do something, and this is certainly a move in the right direction.

Lots of updates to Yahoo Maps

Yahoo Maps screenshotYahoo has been pretty quiet lately about their Maps, compared to Google and Microsoft.  Today they finally have some news.

As reported by Search Engine Land and posted on the Yahoo Local & Maps Blog, here is what has been added:

  • New Neighborhood Data at lower zoom levels with:
  • > 300 cities with new neighborhood data added throughout North America, from Palo Alto, to Chicago, to Toronto, etc.
  • > 12,000 new neighborhood added, from “Lower East Side” (New York, Milwaukee, Bridgeport) to “Lower Collegetown” (Ithaca)
  • Expanded Worldwide Coverage with much improved coverage, especially throughout Eastern Europe
  • New POI information – highlighting Schools, Rest areas, Ski Resorts, etc.
  • Additional shaded relief levels worldwide
  • City label density increased for better usability
  • Style improvements such as Hybrid Road and Label colors adjusted for better legibility
  • Lighter map tiles – with an average of 30-60% reduction in size

Nothing too exciting in there, but it’s pretty nice update nonetheless.