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Each month I try to focus on 5 great maps within a certain theme, but this month Google Geo developers have really outdone themselves and I’ve been blown away by a flurry of great new Maps API applications across the board. I’ve been especially impressed by the new uses I’ve seen of Styled Maps, Fusion Tables, and our new Places API.

InstaEarth

Instagram is an exciting photography tool, but what really takes Instagram to the next level are applications like InstaEarth from Modea. InstaEarth is an easy way to search for and discover Instragram users and photos on a map. The application makes use of the Places API with Autocomplete to help users to search around a landmark or address. From InstaEarth, “InstaEarth is a way to discover and view beautiful Instagram photography taken around the world. View your feed, friends' feeds, popular photos, or navigate the map and explore the world through the eyes of Instagrammers everywhere.”

TeleGeography - Submarine Cable Map

When you make a phone call or send an email abroad, most of the time that data travels by way of submarine cables. Submarine cables are the backbone of the global economy, so it’s fascinating to spend time exploring a map that shows where these cables are located. In addition to being a really interesting, fun, and a great looking map, this map is also technically savvy application. Each line representing a submarine cable is clickable and when selected grays out the other cables for better visibility. The map also uses Styled Maps to help the cables stand out better and Fusion Tables to help manage the data on the back-end.

DART St. Louis

There are two things I love to geek out on: maps and photography. That’s why I love this map from DART St. Louis. From their website, “In April 2011 over 250 creative St. Louisans gathered to throw darts at a huge map of the City of St. Louis. Participants then had one month to visit the area where their dart landed and make a photograph. The resulting collection of photographs shows a snapshot of St. Louis as it is today, one random block at a time.”

Berliner Morgenpost - Berlin Elections Map

Last month I wrote a post about a 5 Great Maps from Germany and this month we have yet another great map from Germany. Using Fusion Tables, Berliner Morgenpost mapped out the results of the September 2011 Berlin elections. Voting districts are colored coded by which political party received the majority of votes. Additionally, you can click on any one of the voting districts which will display an infowindow with a chart of the full voting results. This an excellent example of Google Maps API supporting the democratic process and bringing better transparency to government.

Dodge Journey Search

To promote the new Dodge Journey, Dodge is running a competition on YouTube where users can win one of three brand new Dodge Journeys. Video clues are released on YouTube to help users track down the secret location of the vehicle and if they find it, they own it. The clues are related to places in the real world, so users can rely on Google Maps and Places to help them figure out where the car is located. The Maps API serves as the hub of information for this competition and uses Styled Maps to match Dodge branding along with the Places API with Autocomplete to help users follow up on clues.

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The Maps API is incredibly flexible, allowing developers to venture beyond the basics of web mapping into very different ways of displaying geospatial data and imagery. One way we chose to highlight this flexibility was in the I/O session “Map Your Business, Inside and Out.”

In this session, we demonstrated techniques for displaying custom data over a map, starting with a selection of locations spread out over the world, then zooming in repeatedly, ending with placing a specific object within a room.


In the video you’ll see how features in the API can be used to organize and display custom data at different zoom and conceptual levels. We talked about a number of concepts, demonstrating the power and flexibility of the Maps API. These included:

  • Overlay Tiler, a tool being developed that makes georeferencing and creating map tiles from an image simple and intuitive
  • the MapLabel utility library, that provides functionality to label features on the map in a style that blends in with the standard Google Maps road and POI labels
  • a comparison of techniques to render floor plans on the base map
  • a simple UI control that allows switching between multiple floor plans over the base map
  • a simple search widget, that enables filtering over features on the map
  • a store locator, which uses Google Fusion Tables for geospatial storage, retrieval, and spatial queries
  • gathering and stitching imagery to create Custom Street View panoramas, linked to Google Street View panoramas.

Many of these techniques were used in the Google I/O 2011 Map. The source code for that project can be found on Google Project Hosting.

We hope that developers, armed with these techniques, can create compelling maps, enabling their users to navigate inside and outside the mapped locations.

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In the recently released Google Earth 6.1 we added two new features that will help you annotate line data and improve KML Tours that include Street View mode. As a part of Google’s ongoing commitment to innovation within the standard, these were added to the gx: namespace using the official extension mechanism for OGC KML.

Line labels

When Earth 6.0 launched last November we introduced line styling options to create more realistic roads that have a physical width, outer coloring, and text labels. Now with Google Earth 6.1 you can also add simple text labels at the midpoint of regular (screen <width>) lines by using the new <gx:labelVisibility> tag in <LineStyle>.

Download the KML.

Note: To preserve the current, unlabeled appearance of regular lines in existing KML files, we’ve turned off all line labels by default in Google Earth 6.1. Because labels for physical width lines were turned on by default in Earth 6.0, you will now need to explicitly enable in your LineStyles to display them in Earth 6.1+.

Better Street View experience in Tours

Last November we also introduced <gx:ViewerOptions> in Earth 6.0 so that KML Tours can activate the historical imagery, sunlight and Street View modes, allowing you to tell even cooler stories.

Street View mode uses a different field of view (FOV) than the regular navigation mode to provide users with a better experience. However, until now this special FOV was not captured while creating Tours in Google Earth. This meant that tour playback couldn’t faithfully reproduce the Street View experience as originally recorded.

To address this issue in Google Earth 6.1 we added the <gx:horizFov> tag to <Camera> and <LookAt>. These values are captured automatically while recording tours in Earth 6.1 but you can also add them directly to your KML.

Caption: Here’s an example of using <gx:horizfov> to create the classic dolly zoom effect, invented by cameraman Irmin Roberts and used in Alfred Hitchcock’s film Vertigo. Download the KML here.

Note: Although Cameras and LookAts can also be used to provide a default view for your placemarks, please note that in Google Earth 6.1 custom FOV values are only respected within the <gx:FlyTo> tags in tours.

We hope that these new features will help you create better tours and better annotate your data!

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The Google Maps API family includes the Google Static Maps API, which delivers maps as fixed images in PNG, GIF, or JPG format. It’s great when you want to quickly add a map to a page without writing a JavaScript application, when you need maps on a device with no JavaScript support, or for generating lightweight thumbnail maps or maps for printing. In fact we’re so delighted with the popularity of the Static Maps API that today we’re launching an accompanying service for Street View imagery.

The Google Street View Image API brings the simplicity of the Static Maps API to Street View, providing a way to add a Street View image or thumbnail to any application without the need for JavaScript. Simply construct a URL in accordance with the documentation, and the API returns the corresponding Street View panorama as an image in JPG format:



You can use the Street View Image API in both web based and mobile apps, and the size limits and daily quotas match those of the Static Maps API for both the consumer Maps API and Maps API Premier. You can display Street View images in your apps using this API without a corresponding Google map, but if you do choose to display a map it must be provided by Google. For more details on how to use the Street View Image API please refer to the documentation.

To make it easier to find help using the Street View Image API and Static Maps API, we’re also launching a new forum today dedicated to these services. If you have any questions regarding use of these APIs going forward we recommend you head over to the new Google Maps Image APIs group. We look forward to seeing you there!


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When we launched the Google Maps API for Flash in May 2008 we were responding to strong demand from ActionScript developers for a way to integrate Google Maps into their applications and exploit the performance and cross-platform strengths of Flash.

However use of the Maps API for Flash remains a small percentage of overall Maps API traffic, with only a limited number of applications taking advantage of features unique to the Maps API for Flash. In addition, the performance and consistency of browser JavaScript implementations has progressed, making the JavaScript Maps API an increasingly suitable alternative.

Consequently we have decided to deprecate the Maps API for Flash in order to focus our attention on the JavaScript Maps API v3 going forward. This means that although Maps API for Flash applications will continue to function in accordance with the deprecation policy given in the Maps API Terms of Service, no new features will be developed, and only critical bugs, regressions, and security issues will be fixed. We will continue to provide support to existing Google Maps API Premier customers using the Maps API for Flash, but will wind down Developer Relations involvement in the Maps API for Flash forum.

We understand that this decision will be disappointing for Maps API for Flash developers. We hope you will consider migrating your applications to the Maps API v3, which offers many additional benefits such as Street View, Fusion Tables integration, Places search, and full support for mobile browsers. Our Developer Relations team and many skilled members of the JavaScript Maps API community are available to assist you in doing so on the Google Maps JavaScript API v3 forum.

Google remains supportive of Flash as a development platform for Rich Internet Applications for Chrome, Android, and other devices. However by consolidating our development on the Maps API v3 we can focus all of our resources on delivering great new Maps API features for the benefit of as many developers as possible.