I stumbled across MapBuilder as I was browsing the Google Code site today. MapBuilder was referenced as one of the sites featured projects. The application is pretty interesting, allowing you to visually create a map using either the Yahoo Maps or Google Maps API and then to export the source code for inclusion on your web site. There is also an option to host your maps directly on MapBuilder and reference them from your site with a button that links to a list of all of your available maps.
There are quite a few things that are really cool about the site:
- Supports both Yahoo! Maps and Google Maps.
- No need to learn the details of the mapping API’s – just create your maps and go.
- MapBuilder does geo-coding, using the Yahoo! Geocode API’sand geocoder.us while Google Map API’s require lattitude and longitude in order to do anything with them.
- MapBuilder does the “driving directions to / from here” for you. No need to create custom code for this functionality.
- MapBuilder will also do custom development for you if you want something different from what the basic services provide. I’m assuming there is a fee involved, but I couldn’t find reference to it.
- The site facilitates building communities around maps that people create on the site.
MapBuilder is a really good example of new, unintended possibilities that are exposed when web applications are designed as a set of API’s using the web as a development platform rather than the siloed approach that we have used historically. This application was written by a third party not affiliated at all with Google or Yahoo!, but because of the way their applications were written they have the possibility of an audience that they did not originally target by allowing someone to build applications around their base functionality.
One should note that creation of a user account is required in order to use the full functionality of the MapBuilder site. They basically ask you for a username, password, and your email address. Thats it. Registration for either a Google Maps API key or Yahoo! Maps API key is also required if you would like to host your map on your own web site rather than hosting it on MapBuilder directly.