The Google Maps API: Predictions for 2007

Where is the Google Maps API going in the new year? No one but the development team is certain, but I’m willing to take a gamble and look once more into my cloudy crystal ball.

Driving Directions

Since the introduction of dirving directions on maps.google.com, people in the API newsgroup have been begging for driving directions functionality to be exposed in the API. Google has repeatedly said that there are other sources for this information — many with open APIs — that are compatible with Google Maps-based mashups. However, this has done little to quiet the demand.

In 2007 I expect Google to settle whatever remaining issues they have holding back the incorporation of driving directions into the API. They might be facing licensing issues, volume computational problems or even “What’s in it for us?” business questions. However, if the history of previous feature additions is any indication, user-demand is their strongest motivator. Also, since the release of their awesome geocoding service, I can’t think of any other single feature that has greater demand than a driving directions service.

The benefits to the developer community would be immense. An explicitly sanctioned service would allow many professional map developers to start saying “yes” much more frequently to their clients. I know our clients regularly ask for this exact feature and so far we’ve been very hesitant to build in the KML driving directions hack. We simply don’t have a clear answer on whether it’s permitted or if Google is going to crack down on this form of copyright infringement tomorrow.

Only time will tell of course, but if we all keep begging I’m sure they’ll find a way to make it happen… Even if it’s just for paying enterprise clients.

More Data Layers

The satellite imagery included in the API has opened the whole world to people who may never even travel out of their hometown. With a simple click and drag of the mouse, sites such as Google sight seeing can take you anywhere on the planet, and in many cases, give you a close enough look to make out cars and even naked people.

If Google can offer two layers of data (satellite and map), then why shouldn’t we expect that it will begin to offer other complementary layers? The data for things like elevation and population density are all freely available, and would be valuable additions to many mashups. This would allow developers to focus the aspects that make their mashups unique instead of constantly making the same custom layers from public-domain data sources.

Even if Google doesn’t offer these layers I expect that some fame or fortune seeking individual will create a downloadable layer set prepackaged for this or the other mapping services. In fact those mashups that are already doing so might be able to make a few bucks on the side selling their layer-generation code to other developers.

Regardless of the source, I expect a much more accessible set of data layers to become available in 2007. Keep your eyes and inspiration open, it’s going to be interesting.

Advertisements in the Free API

If you weren’t already aware, companies can now register themselves to show up in the Google local system. This, coupled with the increase in advertising on maps.google.com, leaves little doubt that Google will start to integrate some form of advertising into the free API sooner rather than later.

The terms of service have always provided for the eventuality of Google adding things to make money from your map. However, as opposed to the forced-down-your-throat advertising that we suggested in Chapter 8 of our book, I now think that it will be closer to a joint money-making venture between you and Google. Something like AdSense for Maps which might allow developers some small amount of editorial control over what gets advertised on their map.

I’m sure there are plenty of hobbyist map developers out there that have found their idea to be so popular that the server and hosting bills alone are onerous. Many have already turned to running AdSense ads around the map, but how much more would an advertiser be willing to pay-per-click for a targeted local viewer? I imagine that it’s probably at least double.

This could be a win-win for both the developers and Google if done correctly and I expect that companies like Yahoo or Microsoft might even beat them to the punch if Google isn’t quick enough.

Note: The API key signup page explicitly states that Google will give developers 90 days notice via the official Google Maps API blog before introducing advertising into third-party sites. If the prospect of advertising bothers you, I suggest that you follow this blog closely since I might be wrong and they might force it down your throat.

The Obvious Things

There are a few other things that Google will almost certainly continue to do over the next year, and none of them warrant their own section or discussion. Things like adding more countries to the road and geocoding systems as well as ever increasing satellite imagery are obvious. They will surely continue to refine the rendering speed and execution time for larger and larger data sets and they will continue to improve support for the official web standards (like SVG) going forward.

If you think there is anything else that is on the horizon, or if you know something that I don’t, then I’d love for you to include your thoughts in the comments. Please share any scoops you’ve got, I’m dying to know.

PS: This post was inspired by and contributed to the ProBlogger Group Writing Project. If you’re visiting for the first time then welcome (please buy our book). If you’re a regular reader, then go check it out!


12 Responses to “The Google Maps API: Predictions for 2007”  

  1. 1 Mama Duck

    Of course, advertising will be a HUGE thing in that! I think this is a great project and I’m interested to watch it progress in 2007.

    We also participated in this project, stop on by if you get a chance!

  2. 2 Doug Karr

    I’m hoping for Route Optimization. :)

  3. 3 Mapperz

    Geocoding for the UK would be nice, rather than doing lots of workarounds.

    As for Layers, there are lots already using the ‘custom layers’ in the API.

    http://www.earthtools.org/ has contours

    There are plenty of others showing populations and weather.

    So the future is here already.

    (Possible) New Features include:
    Directions but including with air and sea (distance/time).
    4 D Time (Temporal) Mapping (London over time 4th Century to Present)
    Power Find - not only finds nearest but suggests based on search.
    Load from Local Machine or Google Spreadsheets (fields with lon/lat in)
    Gmail Mapping contacts addresses - with quickest route plus via.

    and that just for starters

    Mapperz
    http://mapperz.blogspot.com/

  4. 4 Cam

    Mapperz,

    I agree that lots of other sites have the elevation population and other custom layers, what I was predicting is a downloadable and re-usable set of tiles that other mashup developers could use without having to manipulate the raw data directly. So far I haven’t seen a downloadable tile set or code that generates a specific tile set.

    You also think all of those features are likely INSIDE the Google maps API? I think they’d all make wonderful mashups, but they seem too specialized to be part of the API itself.

    Cam

  5. 5 Ashish Mohta

    Yeah i am waiting for more data layers.Its not just sufficient.

    Good post

    I too participated in this contest.Just waiting for darren to put it in his next post

    I am feeding your blog

  6. 6 Mary

    I love Google Maps.
    I predict a new api will be developed for ‘mob blogging’

    (imagine: a map which shows the real time dispersion of a blogging meme.)

  7. 7 arena

    Personnaly i am awaiting for

    API new functions :
    1) reverse geocoding
    2) route optimization (from one lat/lng to another)

    3) best transportation mode (in france the local railways are proposing a comparative tool that compares price, time and CO2 emission to go from one point to another).

    New layers :

    1) Global warming ? (infrared satellite photos)
    2) Pollution of any kind ?
    3) Earth at night (just for the fun of having it)

  8. 8 rashenbo

    Every time we turn around there is more and more advertising advancements on the net. What will really tell is how noticeable they are! Satellite imagery is another really big thing and there are already a lot of great tools… but it’ll continue to grow and advance…

    Nice list you have here. I enjoyed reading it!

    I found you on the Problogger Predictions and Reviews Participant List and thought I’d stop over and say hello.

    Cheers!

    Writing Aspirations

  9. 9 taipeimapper

    I love google maps and I want them to release maps-adsense already…

    Here is what I want:
    1)it would be amazing if you could control things like the number of advertisement balloons per screen
    2)the color and size of the balloons,
    3)tell gmap-adsense the keywords that would be relevant to your map, in addition to letting google spider the words on your page.

  1. 1 » Sharing the Link Love @ Miscellaneous Musings
  2. 2 RenaLID
  3. 3 Tim Nash the IT Consultant



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