Hacks & Mashups

Mapmaking, Map Mashups and Activism

Nancy Scola on Tech President: “Every time something happens in the world these days, somebody makes a map about it. […] But the growth of the digital mapping space makes it worth considering things from the perspective of the people who devote their time to making these maps. Why do they bother building maps? What are they hoping to do? What aspects of mapping do they worry about? In short, what do they think about when they’re mapping?” Interviews with eight people covering everything from citizen cartography and open mapping to map mashups. Via OpenStreetMap.


OpenHeatMap is an online tool for creating heat maps and choropleth maps; it generates the maps from user data in a spreadsheet and uses OpenStreetMap tiles for the basemap. (Here’s a list of the location variables OpenHeatMap can understand.) Via…  •  Continue reading this entry.

Commute Map

Harry Kao’s Commute Map takes census data about where people live and work and creates a map showing how many people commute to or from a given zip code, and how long it will take. It’s really quite impressive…  •  Continue reading this entry.

The State of Mapping APIs

Interesting piece by Andrew DuVander on the state of mapping APIs. “Today we’re amidst another location and mapping revolution, with mobile making its impact on the web. And with it, we’re seeing even more geo services provided by both the…  •  Continue reading this entry.

Google’s Styled Maps

Last week, Google announced Styled Maps as part of version 3 of the Google Maps API; it allows developers to make changes to the appearance of maps appearing on their websites. Here’s Google’s case for the feature: “No matter which…  •  Continue reading this entry.

What Happened to Neogeography?

Sean Connin asks what happened to neogeography, a concept that seemed all the rage not so long ago; his answer: that “neogeography” — i.e., web-based mapping tools — has gotten confused and conflated with GIS, which used to be neogeography’s…  •  Continue reading this entry.

Platial Shuts Down

Platial is shutting down; the site may go dark as early as tomorrow. Instructions on exporting data hosted by Platial have been posted, but the data will be archived at Geocommons. Di-Ann Eisnor explains: We are retiring the site because…  •  Continue reading this entry.

Geotagging Art

Geocoded Art geotags public-domain paintings of identifiable locations. The site requires that “a) the image is a recognizable depiction of [a] specific location (not just ‘Tuscan countryside’); and b) the image be in the public domain,” but does not include…  •  Continue reading this entry.


GeoVation encourages people to create “great ideas based on geography,” which is to say, map mashups. There are two competitions: one for ideas, more than 100 of which have been posted so far; and one for ventures, which involves prize…  •  Continue reading this entry.

Free Google Maps Icons

Nico Mollet writes to tell us about his project: hundreds of free icons, colour-coded by category, to be used as placemarkers in Google Maps (API or My Maps). Previously: Custom Icons for Google Maps….  •  Continue reading this entry.

How Maps Help and Hurt

An even-handed article on Spiegel Online looks at how Google Maps can be used to help or even save people (e.g., providing information on Australia’s bushfires) to how it can be used to hurt people (e.g., displaying sensitive personal information…  •  Continue reading this entry.

Tiny Geo-coder

Tiny Geo-coder is a basic online app for determining the latitude and longitude of a location, with a simple API and practical uses for web development. Via Free Geography Tools….  •  Continue reading this entry.


I should have mentioned MapTube long ago; Andrew Hudson-Smith wrote to me about it in May: MapTube, the new mapping site from the guys at Digital Urban and CASA at University College London to view, overlay, mix and match…  •  Continue reading this entry.

More Olympics Maps

Heat maps of the Olympic medals, using Google Spreadsheets’s map widget: this one generates a map from a live results feed; Google Maps Mania creates a few using static medal numbers for the top 15, but divides the results by…  •  Continue reading this entry.

Google Maps API for Flash

The Google Maps API now has a Flash version, alongside its regular JavaScript and static versions. On the Google Maps API blog, Mike Jones writes: So, what do I like about the API for Flash? Smoothness and speed are a…  •  Continue reading this entry.

Yahoo’s Internet Location Platform

Yahoo’s announcement of its Internet Location Platform will be of great interest to web developers and programmers interested in geolocating data, but completely abstruse to everyone else. The platform uses something called Where on Earth ID (WOEID), a numerical tag…  •  Continue reading this entry.

Géoportail API

Géoportail, the mapping site of France’s Institut géographique national, is getting an API this month, Renaud Euvrard reports (in French). Two APIs, actually — regular and pro versions — with a 3D API slated for the summer. (Géoportail’s coverage is…  •  Continue reading this entry.

New Jersey State Atlas

I learned about the New Jersey State Atlas, a Google Maps mashup of New Jersey state data, on MetaFilter Projects, where its creater, John J. Reiser, posted it. Here’s how he introduced it: Originally a product of “hey, what…  •  Continue reading this entry.

‘The New Cartographers’

In These Times has a wide-ranging article on “the new cartographers” — i.e., the popular use of new mapping technologies. For some, mapping has become a vibrant new language—a way to interpret the world, find like-minded folks and make fresh,…  •  Continue reading this entry.

Google Static Maps API

Google has released a “static maps” API: using an image URL, you can generate a map image without using JavaScript, which can be useful in certain circumstances where slow page loads, or JavaScript compatibility, are an issue. Documentation here. Note…  •  Continue reading this entry.

Early Google Maps Hack Retired

The end of an era. Adrian Holovaty’s chicagocrime.org, one of the original Google Maps hacks that predated the release of the official API and that was frequently held up in the media as practically the archetype of the mapping hack,…  •  Continue reading this entry.

Our Dumb World Online

Catholicgauze points out that some content from The Onion’s Our Dumb World (reviewed here) is being put online, a bit more each week, both as a Google Maps mashup and a Google Earth layer; brief bullet-point-sized excerpts in each case….  •  Continue reading this entry.

Yahoo MapMixer

Also announced last week, a beta release (of course) of Yahoo’s MapMixer tool, which allows you to overlay an image atop of Yahoo’s mapping engine. It seems analagous to Microsoft’s MapCruncher, which was released last year. Yahoo! Local and…  •  Continue reading this entry.

The Amateur Mapping Revolution

Map hacks have been around for a couple of years, but the real revolution in online mapping is much more recent — and involves the ability of amateurs, rather than programmers, to create maps using online tools. That’s the argument…  •  Continue reading this entry.

The Million Marker Map

One of my favourite web writers ever, Maciej Ceglowski, announces “an experimental set of Flash and JavaScripts add-ons to the Google Maps API” that allows for the presentation of very large datasets — the Million Marker Map: One challenge we’ve…  •  Continue reading this entry.

More About Mapplets

Google’s Mapplets, announced at the end of May, is coming along nicely: it’s now fully integrated into the “My Maps” tab of Google Maps, and you can save Mapplet content to a personal map. Google LatLong, Google Maps API Blog;…  •  Continue reading this entry.

A Google Maps Roundup

About a month’s worth of links related to Google Maps from my increasingly preposterous queue. Because the news wasn’t all about Street View. The imagery update announced in early June for Google Earth was applied to Google Maps only a…  •  Continue reading this entry.


Google’s been busy today. They also announced a developer preview of Mapplets, which to me seems like a mashup in reverse: instead of importing Google’s maps to data on your web site, data on your web site is imported into…  •  Continue reading this entry.

Yahoo Pipes Adds GeoData

Pipes is a relatively new Yahoo service that allows users to do all sorts of things with feeds, though I haven’t yet had an opportunity to try it. It has now added geodata support, which means that RSS feeds containing…  •  Continue reading this entry.

Maps and Wikis

A couple of extensions that allow wiki developers to add Google Maps to their wiki installations — at least, insofar as I can figure it, if they’re using MediaWiki: Extension: Google Maps and Google Maps Widget. Oddly enough, I’ve been…  •  Continue reading this entry.

Mashups and Businesses

An article about the proliferation of map mashups does not sound exactly groundbreaking in 2007, but this piece from Information Week looks at how businesses are integrating map APIs into their web offerings. Via Anything Geospatial….  •  Continue reading this entry.

Yahoo! Maps Mashups

Webmapper notes the availability of the first book about the Yahoo mapping APIs, Yahoo! Maps Mashups. “It was about time, especially as the Google Maps API is covered in quite a few books already,” writes Edward. The book’s author,…  •  Continue reading this entry.

The Other Shaded Relief Site

The Shaded Relief world map should not be confused with Tom Patterson’s Shaded Relief site (previously); instead, it’s a Google Maps mashup with a custom layer. “We have created a custom layer using SRTM30+ and SRTM90 DEMs and used VMAP0…  •  Continue reading this entry.

Ask MetaFilter Roundup

Recent map- and GPS-related questions on Ask MetaFilter (they even come with answers): Why haven’t GPS prices dropped as much as other electronics? The consensus seems to be that the GPS electronics cost next to nothing; the price point is…  •  Continue reading this entry.


Platial has introduced MapKit, which integrates their service, built atop the Google Maps API, into your web page or blog (though there seem to be issues with certain blogging engines, including WordPress and Blogger). It looks profoundly easy to…  •  Continue reading this entry.


Zoomatron uses MapCruncher to overlay nautical charts on top of the Virtual Earth interface. Massachusetts and Washington states. The method reminds me of what Skyvector.com did with aeronautical charts. Via Windows Live Local/Virtual Earth. See previous entries: MapCruncher Update; MapCruncher….  •  Continue reading this entry.

Google Maps API Update

On the Google Maps API Blog, an explanation of recent performance and imagery upgrades to the API. The improved imagery was noticed on Google Maps proper last week; this post includes a list of the areas that got those imagery…  •  Continue reading this entry.

MapCruncher Update

MapCruncher, the Virtual Earth tool that allows you to integrate your map or image into their mapping system, is now natively supported by the API, the developers report. See previous entries: Live Local/Virtual Earth Update; MapCruncher….  •  Continue reading this entry.

Mapping Regions in Google Maps

One drawback to Google Maps — and presumably to the other mapping services — is that while it’s easy to map points and lines (“polylines”), mapping regions (“polygons”) is something altogether different. And that makes it rather difficult to do…  •  Continue reading this entry.

Thota on Virtual Earth APIs

Chandu Thota reports that he has an article on the Virtual Earth APIs in the September issue of MSDN Magazine: “In this article, I’ll highlight some of the most salient features of the Virtual Earth APIs and show you how…  •  Continue reading this entry.

Google Maps API Update; GZoom

Revision 2.59 of the Google Maps API adds four new features, including speed improvements, custom cursors, and an accuracy attribute for the geocoder, the Google Maps API Official Blog reports. Meanwhile, Andre Louis writes to tell us about his project,…  •  Continue reading this entry.


The MTGoogleMaps Movable Type plugin (now at version 4.0) has some competition, kind of: MTMaps, now at version 0.6, which also uses Google Maps. Developer Patrick Calahan writes, “MTMaps is different from other map plugins in that it associates map…  •  Continue reading this entry.

A Microsoft Roundup

Jeff Thurston thinks that MapCruncher (see previous entry) is “innovative”: “It would be interesting to see ‘artistic’ mapping using MapCruncher — personal mind maps, etched drawings, action/reaction layers and other kinds of unique maps created with this product. In other…  •  Continue reading this entry.


MapCruncher is this new thing from Microsoft Research that uses the Virtual Earth API (I guess it’s Virtual Earth for the technology, Windows Live Local for the online mapping site) to integrate your own maps into their system: Once you…  •  Continue reading this entry.


Probably the strangest Google Maps hack I’ve yet seen: ASCII Maps, which renders maps in coloured text characters. Weird, and possibly neat, but really quite useless. Crashes in Safari. Via O’Reilly Radar….  •  Continue reading this entry.


I must confess that I haven’t yet taken a very close look at Platial.com, a web site built on the Google Maps API (see previous entry), so it was only via this National Geographic News article about mashups that featured…  •  Continue reading this entry.

CNet: Monetizing Map Mashups

A story on CNet about companies building their businesses around map mashups by Elinor Mills: “The main reason for caution is the very thing that makes mashups so popular — they’re fairly easy to create, and it’s not that difficult…  •  Continue reading this entry.

Gmaps 101

GISuser.com has posted the first part of a three-part series on the Google Maps API, specifically on version 2. The first part is an introduction which thankfully doesn’t appear to assume too much prior knowledge; parts two and three will…  •  Continue reading this entry.

Schuyler Looks at the APIs

On the Mapping Hacks blog, Schuyler Erle takes a look at the “big three” online mapping APIs: “The big three — Google, Yahoo!, and MSN Virtual Earth — have basically converged, and their map display APIs look more or less…  •  Continue reading this entry.

MapQuest (Finally) Has an API

MapQuest finally has an API: they’re calling it the OpenAPI, it’s in beta, it was announced yesterday at O’Reilly’s Emerging Tech Conference, and (naturally) it has a blog (via Spatially Adjusted). From what I gather — see Mapping Hacks and…  •  Continue reading this entry.

Google Maps Hacks

Google Maps Hacks is now out and Directions has a review: “This book, started not long after Google Maps debuted last February, is dated. Google Maps is now known as Google Local. Throughout, we hear about how the software is…  •  Continue reading this entry.

Google Maps WordPress Plugins

The WordPress Geo plugin allows bloggers using WordPress to specify a default location for their blog and assign geographic coordinates to specific posts. Dylan Kuhn takes this one step further with his Geo Mashup plugin, which takes that geographic data…  •  Continue reading this entry.

CNet on Mashups

As part of a series on new web technologies, CNet has a long article about mashups that, like previous articles from other news organizations, serves as both an introduction to and summary of the whole Google Maps (and Yahoo! Maps,…  •  Continue reading this entry.

Yahoo! Maps Upgrade

Breaking news: Yahoo! has upgraded its mapping service with a new, Flash-based beta version with substantial interface improvements. In the 15 seconds or so I’ve had to play with it, it works very well — the inset for zooming is…  •  Continue reading this entry.

The New York Times on Mashups

Today’s New York Times has an article about mapping hacks and mashups (free registration required); it touches on the Google Maps API, naturally, but also mentions Yahoo!, Microsoft and the new Ning.com. Thanks to Joel Riggs for the link….  •  Continue reading this entry.

Virtual Earth Mobile

Here’s another Virtual Earth port/hack to an unexpected but welcome place: Virtual Earth for Windows Mobile — i.e. Pocket PCs and Windows-based smartphones. Via the Virtual Earth team blog and Spatially Adjusted. See previous entry: A Microsoft Roundup….  •  Continue reading this entry.

Virtual Earth Roundup

Microsoft’s Professional Developers Conference last week was the occasion for some Virtual Earth announcements. Directions got a heads-up prior to the conference; Andrew Coates has some notes from the Virtual Earth session, which covered using the API for commercial use…  •  Continue reading this entry.

Coding the Google Maps API

About a month ago, our friend John Resig spent a week on Google Maps: “I’ve been working a number of contract jobs — all of which have centered around the usage of the Google Maps API, a powerful tool for…  •  Continue reading this entry.

Blast Radius Map

This Google Maps hack is both informative and chilling: “HYDESim maps overpressure radii generated by a ground-level detonation; these radii are an indicator of structural damage to buildings.” In other words, it overlays the blast radius of a nuclear-grade explosion…  •  Continue reading this entry.

Tracking Hacks

Just try and keep up with all the new Google Maps hacks. Come on, I dare you. I’m so far behind it’s ridiculous; Google Maps Mania, on the other hand, is doing a first-rate job. (It helps that they’re specialized;…  •  Continue reading this entry.

Yahoo! Maps Hacks

As far as official mapping APIs are concerned, Yahoo! and Google announced theirs at roughly the same time. But, thanks to the unofficial hacks and a big lead in mindshare, Google Maps is getting all the attention. This isn’t something…  •  Continue reading this entry.

Google Maps Tools

If you’re interested in building maps with the Google Maps API, you should be aware of the relevant Google Group. You might also find the Phoogle Maps PHP class useful: it does a lat/long lookup of a street address so…  •  Continue reading this entry.

Google Maps Hacks: Sex Offenders

It probably says something about our society that one of the most common Google Maps API hacks is to plot the addresses of registered sex offenders from public databases. Recent hacks include pages for Georgia, Chicago, Lawton, Oklahoma and Utah….  •  Continue reading this entry.

Wired: Map Hacks on Crack

Today’s Wired News article, Map Hacks on Crack, covers the announcements of, rules for, and reactions to the Google and Yahoo! Maps APIs. “Both companies are hoping the new mapping APIs, or application programming interfaces, will excite developers, help the…  •  Continue reading this entry.

Mapping Hacks Now Out

Mapping Hacks (see previous entry) is finally shipping after some delays; Directions has a review. The book went to press too soon to take account of all the Google Maps hacks that have sprung up in the meantime, so they’ve…  •  Continue reading this entry.

Google Shuts Down Map Hack

Sooner or later it had to happen: a Google Maps hack crossing a previously unknown line and Google putting a stop to the fun. Google’s been pretty good about hacks in general (see previous entries: 1, 2), but they’ve informed…  •  Continue reading this entry.

Google Maps Hacking Resources

A trio of tools for Google Maps hacking: the Unofficial Google Maps Embedding How-To seems to supercede the GMaps-Standalone hack I linked to earlier (via Google Maps Mania); Noah’s Google Maps Hack for Large Maps allows you to make poster-sized…  •  Continue reading this entry.

British Google Maps Mashups

O’Reilly Radar has a post about some very neat British Google Maps mashups that use data from BBC Backstage, including one for travel advisories, Sport Map (for teams and news about them), and this one, which links to images from…  •  Continue reading this entry.