Hackers Tap Into the Functionality and Simplicity of Google Maps

Google Map hacks.. chances are you’ve come accross one recently. Developers are tapping into a wealth of online mapping and webservices, integrating the data with other databases, and creating very simple, yet effective web services driven by the Google Map API. This resource lists numerous examples of Google Map Hacks and also provides a number of useful pointers for developers.

We look at some fine examples of Google map hacks and provide you with some pointers on creating your own google map hack. Read on for details. Note: At the bottom of this page we will continue to add pointers and descriptions of new Google Map Hacks as we become aware of them.. be sure to keep checking back!

Ever since Google threw their hat into the mapping arena – so to speak – and made available the tools and APIs that enable developers to harness the power of Google maps for their own apps, we’ve seen a steady stream of apps with that now very familiar Google map look and feel, complete with the balloon icons and “yellow page” style information box. Read on for a brief look at some cool extensions of Google maps that we’ve found on the web. These sites have been commonly referred to as Google Map Hacks!

FoundCity.Net – http://www.foundcity.net/

This nifty resource is billed as an urban bookmarking tool…. ya, that’s what I thought at first too! The concept is perhaps a bit odd, however, when you consider some of the vertical apps or extensions you could build on this API then you have to admit that its pretty clever. Registered site users can add their bookmarks to the site, complete with related info and a photo as well. Example, one of the categories is urban street art. Site users then register/add items of art that they find to be of interest. Making this even more cool, users can search for tags using a cell phone. Foundcity is currently only supporting the city of New York.

I think a great port of this app would be for use in the “Best of” awards that many city’s now conduct. Imagine viewing all the “best of” winners for any city. Show me where to find the best bloody mary in town or best pizza. At the time of writing there were 661 tags in the database. Curiosity got the best of me so I created my own homepage – See http://www.foundcity.net/maptags.php?user=gisuser

The reg. process was very simple, add a username/PW pair, upload a photo and set my home page. Now I need to create some “tags”. Since I’m not actually in New York (the site is setup only for New York at this time) I’m doing a test by adding the Hello Deli to the database. I click create new tag and associate it with a description and the address: 213 West 53rd Street. I now have my list of map bookmarks started. See my map below:

My foundcity map

So now what? Well, the database is small but consider this. If I happened to be in New York and this database was full of interesting items, I could easily query the database from my cell phone. All I need to do is send an email from my mobile to nyc@foundcity.net with a tag name of “deli”… pretty cool!

founcity.net Google map hack

HousingMaps.com – http://www.housingmaps.com/

This resource enables users of the popular Craigslist database to visualize and map the results of their search for available housing and rental properties. FYI, Craigslist is a very well known, San Francisco-based directory of classified ads. Using the Google Map API, users can search and map rental housing by city and price range. In our example we’ve queried results for vacancies in San Francisco less than $2,000. Users can extend the scope of their search by locating listings for sale, rooms to rent, and sublets. The list of cities is constantly growing with Providence, Toronto, and Montreal being recently added. See also http://www.craigslist.org/

housingmaps.com google map hack

GoogleTraffic.com – http://supergreg.hopto.org/google-traffic.com/

This one has a different look and feel and delivers data accessed from traffic.com as well as weather information from worldweather.org. The map delivers useful, real-time traffic information. Particularly useful are the construction icons that show visitors where they can expect delays and road closures. The sample map shown below shows a screen-cap from data for Detroit. MI. Details of the road closure as well as a useful time stamp are provided in the balloon.

Googletrafficweather.com map hack

Need a Wallpaper? http://gmerge.2ni.net/index.php

The developer of the Google traffic maps hack has also created a nifty tool to tile/merge satellite imagery from the Google Maps database. Using a python script, the application generates a file that merges images from the specified region. Users can optionally set the output image size and zoom level. As a sample, I specified Seattle, WA in 640×480 res. with a zoom level of 8. See the resulting image below.

CheapGas Maps – http://www.ahding.com/cheapgas/

One of the more popular Google hacks of late is this one querying the gassbuddy.com database. Like the name implies, users can easily see where they can get the best deal on gas. The database provides a map of service station locations, reveals the current price, and a time stamp. The list of cities is getting pretty extensive and I was very impressed to actually see some Canadian cities listed as well. The map below show the results for Vancouver. More information about the site’s development can be found at http://www.ahding.com/wordpress/index.php/2005/04/google-map-hacks-gas-movie/ See also http://www.gasbuddy.com/

cheapgas.com google map hack

CheapMovies – http://www.ahding.com/movie/

Like the name implies, if you need to locate a movie theater and map it’s location then this is the resource for you. The site has been developed by the same developer who brought you cheapgas. Only several cities are available at the moment. Once again, a very simple yet useful tool.

Google Maps and 4ppl Free Personals… too much information??
 
One Google map hack that seemed to provide just a little too much information for many people is the addition of a map locator tool to a personal dating website. BoonEx Group and AEwebworks Software Development have created the mapping functionality for 4ppl Online Personals – http://www.4ppl.com/. Unfortunately at this time the site seems to be down (shut down???). I did actually try it a week ago when I reported on this in my weblog. The site indeed did provide maps where the neighborhood of 4ppl personal ad listing candidates could be seen.
 
Here’s the premise… Visitors may search for members and see their location on a detailed map. For example, if you are searching for a single, white female, between 24 and 30 in Orlando, Florida, you can then extend the search parameters to provide a map of the person’s address (if they provided it). This is very cool, however, I have to wonder how many people posted classified ads and thought that people could actually view an aerial photograph of their neighborhood or home! Sorry but this combination is just a bit too creepy for my liking.
 

More Google Map Hacks…

IncidentLog.com (Added June 28, 2005)
 
Incidentlog.com has begun adding google maps to its large inventory of U.S. Police, Fire, and 911 Incidents containing real-time and archived data. The map shown below shows recent fire incidents. Clicking on each bubble will display more detailed information about the reported incident. Other incident themes available include assaults, domestic incidents, shootings and suicides. Search can be restricted to State, Street, and specific locations. The UI for this hack is really nice and simple. View the most recent 100 incidents in the US or, select a theme and a geographic location. A very cool feature of the site is the “stats”. Click on yesterday’s stats and you’ll get a comparisson of all the major cities with incidents.  This one gets 9 out of 10 on my Google Map Hack Ranking!
 
Google Map Hack - incidentlog.com

Florida Sexual Predators – http://www.floridasexualpredator.com/
A fantastic idea that really drives home to visitors the areas where sexual predators are living.  The site conveniently displays a push-pin at the address of all known sex offenders in Flrida. Search by Zip code and the display gets updated. Click on the pin and a popu-up window reveals a picture of the offender, information about him/her and a direct link is provided to the FDLE database.. very nice stuff!

Screen shot from Florida sexual predators

 
Other google map hacks can be found at:


Creating your own Google Map Hacks & Developer Resources

Do you want to create your own Google map hacks? myGmaps enables you to create, save and host custom data files and display them with Google Maps. See http://mygmaps.com/mygmaps.cgi/

See also Developing Your own Apps using Google – FYI, the Google API enables developers to do up to 1000 searches a day using their ownn application.

myGmaps

myGmaps enables you to create, save and host custom data files and display them with Google Maps. A userlogin is required and only a select few are allowed to use the service at any one time (due to bandwidth limitations) – See http://mygmaps.com/mygmaps.cgi/

Unofficial Google Maps Embedding How To

This is a guide on how to include or embed a Google Maps map viewer widget in your very own web page. Comprehensive demos are provided. See http://stuff.rancidbacon.com/google-maps-embed-how-to/

Google Maps Discussion Group – A useful but popular unoficiall discussion group devoted to google map hacks – http://groups-beta.google.com/group/Google-Maps/

For some tutorials, developer resources, and programming guides we suggest you check out the following:


Conclusion

You get the idea. Google map “hacks” are popping up every day and I don’t expect to see this change for some time. Unless of course the people at Google redefine the licensing arrangements for distribution of the data. These clever programmers have managed to tap into a wealth of information that is locked up inside DBs and are generating some very simple, and useful apps. Given the fact that none of these developers has paid for any of the data and are redistributing the spatial data products without paying a dime, you have to wonder how long can this go on? Will Google, keyhole, Navteq, cheapgas.com and other data providers put a stop to this? Should they put a stop to it? Personally I love seeing these apps, however, when developers start creating websites that generate millions of page hits a day without paying a dime for access to any of the data being queried and displayed in their apps will things change? Until then, bring em on… I want to see more map hacks. Of note, this article noted that Google has no intention of shutting down any of these sites until they have done something that goes against the map license/data distribution policies.

Know about a Google Map Hack? Tell us!

For some additional related news, check out this recent blog post about Google Earth Pro

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