November 9th, 2005
Many interface elements have a watershed moment, when someone implements them in such a cool or useful way that nobody questions their worth anymore. Amazon did this with tabs, and now we have tabs everywhere on the Web. Before Amazon, the tabbed interface was mainly relegated to desktop applications.
A watershed moment is happening with online maps as we speak.
First is was Housingmaps, created by Paul Rademacher, an application so obviously cool and useful that is started a revolution in mapping. Housingmaps was built using Ajax, the technology du jour, and after one look at Housingmaps you no longer needed to know why the Google Maps service is useful. The only problem is determining if it is useful in your projects.
Now there is a watershed moment for Yahoo Maps beta, released last week to great fanfare because it sports an even smoother interface than Google Maps. It’s not based on Ajax, though. It’s based on Flash, the much maligned tool that spawned the evil Flash intros that are fading all too slowly away.
Though the new Yahoo Maps is nice, and serves to bolster Flash’s reputation, the real watershed moment comes from a developer, Justin Everett-Church, who has manipulated the Yahoo Maps API to produce something pretty amazing: a map that looks any way you want it to. In his post on the topic, Justin shows off two very different maps, both using the same underlying technology. (note that you’ll need Flash 8 to view it correctly)
Here’s a screenshot of one, a radar map:
The map behind this radar screen is the same map as on the Yahoo Maps site, it only looks different. Justin has taken the Yahoo Maps API and innovated beyond it by adding his own visual filters. While this is only a proof of concept, with further development you could plot coordinates, zoom in, and give folks some of the more advanced functionality that the other mapping applications have.
I think this is another watershed moment in the online mapping area. After seeing Justin’s work, don’t you just want to just go out and make one yourself?Tweet