When I did early demos of Teqlo I was pretty limited in the number of widgets we could “hook up” so I invariably ended up doing a Google Map mashup. I started to get self conscious about it to the point that I started to make a joke out of it, “I’m gonna demo a Gmap mashup because we all know the world needs yet another one!”. Half serious, half hoping to just deflect the issue in the event that it came up.
While we are fortunate to have more widgets now, I still like the Gmap ones for a couple of reasons.
1) Google Maps is a drop dead simple API compared to the other Google services. It’s reliable and fast, and it makes a great demo to explain the concept.
2) The reason why Google Maps mashups became so popular (up to half of the public mashups are Gmap) is because maps make a great visualization paradigm for spatial data. Do you need a tutorial to understand data on a map? No, it’s simple and it communicates the appropriate data very effectively.
3) Prior to Google releasing the map API, doing anything with maps was an expensive proposition that required purchasing a license for complicated mapping software and likely installing software on the client side as well. What Google did was eliminate barriers to entry for new entrants to create map based interfaces that reached consumer grade mass market audiences. For that Google should be complimented because it would have been reflexive to fall back and charge a fee of some level for access to this kind of service.
Map mashups are just the low hanging fruit in the mashup space, and far from losing their luster they are accelerating in adoption (SAP even has a Gmap mashup to their Real Estate solution).
Google Maps (and its mapping brethren) remains the most generally useful, accessible, open, and viral visualization platform for creating mashups. There arenâ€™t an awful lot of other places to stick data and have it look like anything other than just another web app. When it goes on a blog we call it a widget instead. You could imagine tomorrow if google created an open tree map visualization platform that was as accessible as its mapping API all of a sudden there would be a ton of tree map mashup visualizations floating around.