There’s been much discussion these days about Google Maps and Microsoft’s Virtual Earth. Who’s going to win the battle of the Map.Search wars? Clearly, Google has a big lead, much of it simply thanks to being first to market with the launch of Google Maps, the acquisition of Keyhole (and addition of online imagery), and then Google Earth. It’s difficult to qualify the lead, however, given the response from the developer community to the open API, the community has quickly embraced the company’s solution and developer tools. Let’s look a bit closer at Google Earth as well as Google and Yahoo!’s APIs.
If you want Google Maps on “steroids”, so to speak, then the addition of Google Earth has helped catapult Google into the lead in this space. “Earth” is a facilitated by the user running a local client, however, loads of functionality and an amazing user experience is the result. A little more info follows:
Take Google Maps, add Keyhole’s “fly me” technology along with a Map Globe UI and Terabytes of geospatial imagery and you have Google Earth. The viewing client is free to users and functionality includes:
fly to an address
zoom, pan, tilt, rotate
Local search and business look-up
Fly to search result
Print, Save, e-mail results
Toggle on/off map layers
3D buildings (Select urban areas)
Optional “Plus” version for $20 – includes GPS support plus additional tools and printer support
Optional “Pro” version $400 – for commercial users
For developers, the biggest selling point for Google Maps and “Earth” is the fact that already there exists a very strong, tight-knit http://www.safe.com
Looking for a comparison of Google Maps and MSN Virtual Earth? The http://www.jonasson.org/maps/ has made an application where users can enter a local search string and the subsequent results from both apps are displayed side-by-side… nice! Searching urban areas in this manner revealed to me that much of the imagery is identical (actually serving the exact same image – example: Safeco Field, Seattle, WA). Personally, the “vanilla” maps served by default to MSN are more cartographically appealing than those served vi Google Maps, however, navigation is much easier and faster using Google Maps. I also believe Google does a better job of combining imagery and the vector map data, resulting in a much clearer and visually appealing product.
Sample map generated by MSN Virtual Earth
It should be noted; custom application developed using the Google Map API are knows as “hacks” , “maphacks” or “google maphacks”. Custom apps developed using Yahoo! Maps API are knows as “mashups”.
So which developer environment is best? The folks at XML.com have published a decent article describing the pros and cons of each API. Some of the key differences noted include the following:
Google API – In Beta, restircted upper limit on use, no geocoding
Yahoo! API – no restrictions, geocoding included, stable release
Some suggested developer resources:
- See Google Earth Home
- Download Free Google Earth
- Google KML Developer Resource
- Google APIs
- Yahoo! Developer Network
- Yahoo! maps API discussion
- Yahoo! Application Gallery
- A9 Developer Blog
It still leaves us with the question… Hack or Mash? Which solution should a developer use?
Coincidentally, just today Amazon has announced their online Map service at A9 now includes imagery. This application is still in it’s infancy and doesn’t even compare to Google Maps at this time, however, they are promoting the fact that the application serves up some 35 million block-view(TM) images. If anything it’s great news for the data providers!