Without giving a history lesson about online street maps, things are changing and for the better. Developers now have at their disposal the tools to make maps of varying degrees:
- Simple maps using tools like Google Maps or Yahoo Maps
- Slightly more complex maps, again with Google Maps and Yahoo, but also with OpenStreetMap (see also)
- Layered and customizable maps, like those used on EveryBlock.
The OpenStreetMap and custom maps models are the most intriguing for me. They offer the ability to deliver the necessary local information, but in a way that is not cumbersome to the user. For example, Everyblock is open about their maps and I believe they have the best custom maps that I’ve seen in use so far: simple and usable (if only it were available in my locale…).
If you have an application where showing data on a map is key it’d pay dividends to look beyond the simple offerings of Google and Yahoo.