Google Maps offers detailed maps of nearly anywhere in the United States or Canada on which users can quickly zoom in or out.
Now, web developers are taking Google's online map service to a new level, layering in house sales and apartment rentals, real-time traffic stats and Flickr photo tags.
HousingMaps, created by Paul Rademacher, a 3-D graphic artist from Santa Clara, California, is just one of several innovative hacks giving users new ways to use information since Google launched its maps service. Hackers have also meshed Google Maps with sites like the photo-sharing service Flickr, Yahoo's traffic notifications, city transit maps and others.
HousingMaps is an eye-opener, offering a simple and easy-to-navigate interface that lets home and rental shoppers take in a neighborhood of offerings at a glance, complete with locations, prices and, in some cases, pictures.
These simple but powerful hacks are not exactly authorized. Google has not offered software tools and licensing terms for developers to work with its mapping engine and data. But the hacks nevertheless offer a compelling glimpse of what's possible when online data plays well together -- a major goal of internet-standards initiatives such as XML that, for the most part, are still a work in progress.
A daily timesaver: Greg Sadetsky's hack -- which mashed up Google Maps and traffic information, first from Yahoo and now from Traffic.com.
Another hack overlays the Chicago public transit system on Google's map of the city. There are similar sites for Boston and New York.
Another popular combination is Daniel Catt's Geobloggers, a blending of Google Maps with Flickr that displays the location -- within geographic areas on a Google map -- of pictures hosted on the photo-sharing service. Users plug the longitude and latitude of locations of their Flickr photos into Geobloggers and tag those photos with the name of the city within Flickr.
Geobloggers users can turn to a third site that automatically returns the longitude and latitude of any address entered into Google Maps.