Chapter 13. Remixing Online Maps and 3D Digital Globes

Table of Contents

The Number of Online Maps
Examples of Map-­Based Mashups
Making Maps Without Programming
Google My Maps
A Mashup Opportunity: Mapping Yahoo! Local Collections
Transforming the Yahoo! Local XML into CSV for
Collection Building in Microsoft’s Live Search Maps
Summary of Making Maps Without Programming
Data Exchange Formats
Microformats and Metatags for HTML
Yahoo!’s Use of GeoRSS and Yahoo! YMaps Extensions
Interoperability Among Formats: GeoRSS vs. KML
Creating Maps by API Programming
Google Maps API
Yahoo! Maps API
Microsoft’s Live Search Maps/Virtual Earth
Yahoo! Maps
Google Geocoder
Virtual Earth
Geocoding Non-­U.S. Addresses
Google Earth and KML
Displaying and Handling KML As End Users
Programming Google Earth via COM and AppleScript
Mapstraction and OpenLayers
An Integrative Example: Showing Flickr Pictures in Google Earth
KML NetworkLink
Generating the KML for the Photos
The flickrgeo.php Code

It would be difficult to overstate the importance of maps in the course of human civilization. Maps help us place ourselves in a spatial context with regard to everything else on the planet. With the advent of the Web, we have been able to access online maps, which have proven to be both useful and fascinating. There are many practical daily uses for these maps, including getting driving directions, locating a restaurant in the neighborhood, thinking of places to go for travel. Online maps let us explore parts of the world in new ways too. Moreover, maps provide an intuitive conceptual and visual metaphor/space for connecting other things; as part of our cultural development, we have all developed a strong intuition for maps.

It is no wonder then that online maps have been used extensively in many mashups. One reason for this extensive activity is that contemporary online maps are designed for easy customization. In this chapter, you will learn how to customize maps. It is an exciting time for web-­based mapping, and we really are only at the beginning of developing this immersive space. Add the Global Positioning System (GPS), more immersive systems/platforms such as Google Earth and Second Life, ubiquitous computing, and GPS devices, and we’re going to get amazing stuff.


We’re good at reading maps, and we know how things on maps are related to each other. We’re used to adding dots and drawing lines. Hence, it’s not much of a stretch for us to add other things—dots, lines, pictures, and even more abstract data to maps. Things that are located in space have a natural spot on maps. That’s what I mean by saying that maps are a powerful metaphor.

The goal of this chapter is to introduce how to use some leading systems for remix purposes (Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, Microsoft Maps, MapQuest, and Google Earth), looking for commonalities and differences. A potential framing question, technically, is how to write a wrapper so that one can substitute one system for another—and I will tell you about a couple of such efforts. However, most people want to use just one of these maps and do some easy customization; hence, I will show how you can do that. Each system has strengths, and it’s useful to be able to interchange information among them without much effort. Obviously, I will not attempt to exhaust this very rich subject, but I’ll provide you with a strong starting point to build on.

In this chapter, I will cover the following:

To learn more about the subject of online maps, please read the following:

The Number of Online Maps

The capability of individual users to make web-­based digital maps has been rapidly increasing over the past several years. Online maps have evolved quickly from maps with only predefined purposes (for example, driving directions) to increasingly customizable platforms. That is, we are close to having map-making for the masses—Geographic Information System (GIS) for dummies (so to speak).

Perhaps the most dramatic revelation of the capabilities of what would later be known as Ajax was the emergence of Google Maps in February 2005.[152]new-style online maps as opposed to old-­style online maps (which are an endangered species it would seem; even MapQuest has switched over to Ajax-­type maps). By old-­style online maps, I mean non-­JavaScript-powered maps—ones in which moving around or zooming means reloading the page.

The most obvious aspect of the new-­style maps is the substantial increase in interactivity (with the fluid drag-­and-drop capabilities, instead of clicking and waiting for a page reload). However, hackers quickly realized that the Ajax technology also allowed Google Maps to be extended to new purposes.[153]