Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Maps Data API: Bringing Geospatial Search to Google's Cloud

When we first announced the Google Maps Data API in May, we were excited to provide developers with free scalable hosting of geographic content.  The idea was simple: to create an awesome maps mashup, you focus on creating a great user experience and Google will provide scalable hosting and bandwidth.  Moreover, your data should be accessible from any platform (like desktop, iPhone, or Android) using your language of choice (including JavaScript, Python, Java, or Objective-C).

Today we're launching several exciting new features based on all the great feedback we've gotten from developers.  First, we're adding geospatial and attribute search to your maps.  To see these features in action, play around with this College Finder demo (you can download and modify the source code here).  I created a Google My Map consisting of approximately 3000 U.S. 4-year colleges, and wrote a JavaScript app to search over this map (with no need to run my own server or database!).

Using the new search features, you can easily request "all colleges within 5km of San Francisco" and apply attribute filters like "[Type:public]".  You can also sort the results by proximity to a point (in this case, the center of the map).  The results are updated whenever the map is dragged or zoomed, or when the search criteria change.

In addition to search, many developers have requested the ability to enable API access to a public map without requiring users to be signed into a Google account.  We've also enabled this today: you can indicate (using the API) that you would like a map to be accessible by others via the API.  You can also programmatically control access to the maps you own, by making them public/private or adding specific collaborators.  Our official docs will be updated soon but, in the meantime, check our forum for updates about this.

To get started writing your next awesome geo app, you can download and modify our sample code, or refer to our documentation.  We look forward to seeing all the great collaborative mashups, store locators, and mobile apps you'll come up with.

If you have questions or feedback, or would like to tell us about your new creation, please visit our developer forum, tweet about #mapsdata, or file a feature request.  We have some other great features on the way, so stay tuned and keep mapping!

Posted by Matt Holden, Google Maps Data API Team