Friday, May 27, 2011

Google MyMaps does more!

So along with some friends I have been tinkering with mobile GeoRSS ideas for a while. George Lee published iGeoRSS to the iPhone app store after some discussions we had. I have been talking about doing an Android version for a while, and the other day I saw someone beat me to it:

Although in principle there would still be room for others. However I just updated Google Maps on my Android phone, partly because I had read in a Distimo report that:
Google Maps is the only application with more than 50 million downloads in the Google Android Market, making it the all-time most popular application in this store
One of the disincentives for creating a map app for either iPhone or Android, is that pretty much everyone is using the Google maps app anyway, and there also have been restrictions about 3rd party developers adding things like direction support to their map apps, which is like the most mega-useful thing; and so it feels like pushing out a map app will mean always lagging behind Google's own app.

Not that that is a reason to give up completely, but I just noticed two (relatively?) new features in Google MyMaps. One is the ability to import GeoRSS feeds into your Google MyMaps, and the other is the ability to open up editing of MyMaps to anyone. So in principle all the things that I was hoping to achieve with a mobile GeoRSS app are in place, as you view all your Google MyMaps as layers in the Google Maps app on android.

So for example I just created a Google MyMap called "Sam's Restaurant Recommendations", which I can see on my android Google Map app. I might actually keep this one just for me to edit :-) but I have made a local news MyMap and opened it for anyone to edit, as well as making it public. Now of course, that's going to scale poorly and probably hit Google MyMap size limits if everyone in the world were to throw in all their local news, and I still haven't found many news sources spitting out geotagged feeds.

I did find this geotagged press release feed, and I tried importing it into my local news MyMap, and it grabbed at least the first item:

and when I viewed it on my android phone, I could see the whole feed. Now in principle anyone could keep adding to this, and everyone could see it on their phones, and we would have a shared geo-overlay system, which is probably Google's intention ...

What I'd really want is an API access to the MyMaps data so that old news could be moved off to an archive etc., and I'm not sure if that's available yet. Also, it's not clear to me how public mymaps can actually be discovered, and whether I would specifically have to invite people to a map for them to access it on their android phone ...

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