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Tuesday, 10th July 2007

New Google Map Features & a Quick Look at Mapping Services from Ask.com and Others

+ Google Maps get personal (via Reuters)

Google Inc. will introduce Wednesday a new feature that lets users create personalized maps which plot the locations of everything from cheap gas locally to the latest earthquakes worldwide.

Cool stuff. You'll find the "My Maps" tab next to the search results tab on Google Maps. At the present time you can create your own map (MyMaps was launched in April) and now, as of today, you can find a directory of over 100 "Maplets" from third parties here. You need to download them to your system. You should also spot a few of them in the MyMaps section on Google Maps. Real Estate search is one of them. It looks similar to housing search on Google Base.

Note from the news release:

Mapplets are currently only available in a special Developer Preview version of Google Maps at: http://maps.google.com/preview

Note from Gary*:
We try to keep Ask.com posts to a minimum given my relationship with the company* but I think this is a good time for one. Ask has been offering what might be called related services for a while and that require no downloading of gadgets, widgets, apps, etc. Like we always do, if you're on the ResourceShelf home page, click to read the Ask.com report.

1) A near real time earthquake map.
In fact, when you do a web search for earthquake (location) a list appears of recent quakes (if any). Click again to go to the earthquake map. Example: Earthquakes Alaska. This earthquake map feature went live late last summer. Direct to the quake map. No downloading is required to access this or any other Ask Map feature.

2) Ask City (launched several months ago) allows users to mark-up maps (no download required) with various shapes and then search for whatever they want inside or alongside those shapes.
For example, search for Seattle, your choice how you want to search. I selected the "maps and directions" option. Then, draw a circle (you select the color) on an area of the city. You can have numerous shapes on one map.

3) At the top of the circle, look for a magnifying glass icon. Click it. A box should appear. Here's a screen cap. Inside the box you're provided with a search box and info about the size of the area you've outlined with a circle.

4) Now, you're able to search "inside" the specific area you've selected and add a layer of data to the map. For example, here's a search, for "coffee" (it's Seattle, of course) inside the circle I've drawn. You could search for gas stations, hair salons, delicatessens, whatever. Directory listings for each location will appear in the middle pane and the locations mapped are now visible in the map pane. Of course, you can zoom in or out using the map. Save the listings, share with others, sent to phone, etc.

5) Btw, I also like the line feature to see what's along a specific street. Here's an example. Both of these options (shapes, lines) could be useful as a starting point if you were writing a business plan and wanted to check what competition is in the area you've selected. Of course, this is a starting tool. Users should also consider using more powerful tools designed specifically for this purpose.

6) Quick notes about Ask Maps.
++ Direct links to maps will often appear at the top of a results page if you are searching for a city or well-known venue. You'll find a map link and direct links to other info about the city, including, if available, the city's home page. Also, note the disambiguation box to help assist in finding cities with the same name.

++ Entering a specific address often triggers a map Smart Answer. If you know the Zip Code, no need to enter the city name.

++ Ask Maps offers both dynamic location and route recalculation. For example, search for a location on any map. Drag the pointer to a new location and start location will change. Also, Ask Maps offers both driving and walking directions which can be very different due to one way streets, etc. Here's an example. You can also add new locations by simply right-clicking on a specific spot and selecting "add new location." No typing required. The location should appear in a box on the left side of the page. Users can also toggle between driving and walking directions and see the routing outlined on the map. You can have up to ten locations.

There are a ton of cool mapping tools out there. MS Live Local (awesome imagery), Maps24, Yahoo Maps, and Maporama, Mappy.com are just a few of many worthy of your attention.

Don't forget that in terms of aerial imagery, it varies in terms of when the imagery was taken on each database. So, again, another reason to know about more than one search tool. Btw, for France and Spain, PagesJaunes not only offers maps but also gorgeous street-level imagery for many major cities.

See Also: SkylineGlobe
A free 3D digital globe that is downloaded as a plug-in. Numerous layers of data available including real-time traffic cams for about 30 cities.

See Also: Build "Collections" with MS Live Local Maps

See Also: Aerial Imagery on Ask Mobile is Available. No download required. Here's Wrigley Field in Chicago.

See Also: Newsmaps from Reuters Labs
Map searching a new idea? In this post we link to a 1990 article about Cartia by Paula Hane.

See Also: MetaCarta GeoIntel for Petroleum (Free Beta)

* Gary is Director of Online Information Resources at Ask.com


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