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April 5, 2007

Google’s My Maps

Filed under: General MTBGuru stuff,Google Earth,Mapping — mtbguru @ 1:56 pm

Lots of buzz today about the release of a new feature on Google Maps, called My Maps, allowing users to annotate and save maps with their own content: placemarks that may contain links, photos or text (any html really), lines, routes and shapes. GigaOM even talks about the ‘smashing of maps mashups’ and the impending doom it may bring to existing third party web apps, as Google’s own offering now seems to take away the wind out of the sails of many of these mashups and mapping startups.

We don’t worry about this but are actually rather excited about it: Google uses the KML format to save the data and feed it back into the Web. This makes for a nice and closer alignment between Google Maps and Google Earth (potentially leading one to become even more philosophical about the future of the Web and the advent of geobrowsers) – for us it means in particular that all KML files generated on MTBGuru are now also available on Google Maps.

As an example, let’s assume we’re interested in bike rides at Skeggs point near Woodside (one of our own local favorites). When we go to Google Maps and type in ‘Skeggs, Woodside CA’ in the main search box, we get the following result (screenshot below, click the image for a larger version):


The content in the left sidebar consists of Google’s featured links (typically these are local businesses that paid to be listed here). Below these, you can see a link titled ‘See user-created content’ (encircled in red). Clicking on this will now lead to a web search for KML files, relevant to this location and search, with the following result (see screenshot):


As MTBGuru creates and publishes KML files on the Web for each public trip and geotagged picture, you may find MTBGuru links appear in the sidebar, with corresponding placemarks on the map, as is the case here.

Click now for instance on the first placemark (‘Skeggs Point – Manzanita Overview’) – this points to an ‘overview’ KML file that contains the route, see the next screenshot below:


You can now save these routes and placemarks in Google’s My Maps – click on the placemarks and you’ll see a link appear titled ‘Save to My Maps’ (two examples below):



This basically enables anyone to save and catalog public data on MTBGuru in My Maps, and annotate it with their own content (overlayed routes, additional commentary or pictures), and we’re all in favor of that!

It would become even nicer if Google could give the ‘User-created content’ link a more prominent position in the sidebar upon a search, so it would be easier for people to browse the rich KML content out there on the Web.

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