Hackers Tap Into the Functionality and Simplicity of Google Maps

by Glenn Letham

Related link: http://www.gisuser.com/content/view/5807/

Ever since Google threw their hat into the mapping arena - so to speak - and made available the tools and APIs that enable developers to harness the power of Google maps for their own apps, we've seen a steady stream of apps with that now very familiar Google map look and feel, complete with the balloon icons and "yellow page" style information box. Read on for a brief look at some cool extensions of Google maps that we've found on the web. These sites have been commonly referred to as Google Map Hacks!

FoundCity.Net - http://www.foundcity.net/

This nifty resource is billed as an urban bookmarking tool.... ya, that's what I thought at first too! The concept is perhaps a bit odd, however, when you consider some of the vertical apps or extensions you could build on this API then you have to admit that its pretty clever. Registered site users can add their bookmarks to the site, complete with related info and a photo as well. Example, one of the categories is urban street art. Site users then register/add items of art that they find to be of interest. Making this even more cool, users can search for tags using a cell phone. Foundcity is currently only supporting the city of New York.

I think a great port of this app would be for use in the "Best of" awards that many city's now conduct. Imagine viewing all the "best of" winners for any city. Show me where to find the best bloody mary in town or best pizza. At the time of writing there were 661 tags in the database. Curiosity got the best of me so I created my own homepage - See http://www.foundcity.net/maptags.php?user=gisuser

The reg. process was very simple, add a username/PW pair, upload a photo and set my home page. Now I need to create some "tags". Since I'm not actually in New York (the site is setup only for New York at this time) I'm doing a test by adding the Hello Deli to the database. I click create new tag and associate it with a description and the address: 213 West 53rd Street. I now have my list of map bookmarks started.

So now what? Well, the database is small but consider this. If I happened to be in New York and this database was full of interesting items, I could easily query the database from my cell phone. All I need to do is send an email from my mobile to nyc@foundcity.net with a tag name of "deli"... pretty cool!

HousingMaps.com - http://www.housingmaps.com/

This resource enables users of the popular Craigslist database to visualize and map the results of their search for available housing and rental properties. FYI, Craigslist is a very well known, San Francisco-based directory of classified ads. Using the Google Map API, users can search and map rental housing by city and price range. In our example we've queried results for vacancies in San Francisco less than $2,000. Users can extend the scope of their search by locating listings for sale, rooms to rent, and sublets. The list of cities is constantly growing with Providence, Toronto, and Montreal being recently added. See also http://www.craigslist.org/

GoogleTraffic.com - http://supergreg.hopto.org/google-traffic.com/

This one has a different look and feel and delivers data accessed from traffic.com as well as weather information from worldweather.org. The map delivers useful, real-time traffic information. Particularly useful are the construction icons that show visitors where they can expect delays and road closures. The sample map shown below shows a screen-cap from data for Detroit. MI. Details of the road closure as well as a useful time stamp are provided in the balloon.

Need a Wallpaper? http://gmerge.2ni.net/index.php

The developer of the Google traffic maps hack has also created a nifty tool to tile/merge satellite imagery from the Google Maps database. Using a python script, the application generates a file that merges images from the specified region. Users can optionally set the output image size and zoom level.

CheapGas Maps - http://www.ahding.com/cheapgas/

One of the more popular Google hacks of late is this one querying the gassbuddy.com database. Like the name implies, users can easily see where they can get the best deal on gas. The database provides a map of service station locations, reveals the current price, and a time stamp. The list of cities is getting pretty extensive and I was very impressed to actually see some Canadian cities listed as well. More information about the site's development can be found at http://www.ahding.com/wordpress/index.php/2005/04/google-map-hacks-gas-movie/ See also http://www.gasbuddy.com/

CheapMovies - http://www.ahding.com/movie/

Like the name implies, if you need to locate a movie theater and map it's location then this is the resource for you. The site has been developed by the same developer who brought you cheapgas. Only several cities are available at the moment. Once again, a very simple yet useful tool.

Creating your own Google Map Hacks

Do you want to create your own Google map hacks? myGmaps enables you to create, save and host custom data files and display them with Google Maps. See http://mygmaps.com/mygmaps.cgi/

For some tutorials and programming guides we suggest you check out:

More info also at http://libgmail.sourceforge.net/googlemaps.html
Another blogger has decided to look under the hood to see what makes Google Maps tick. See http://jgwebber.blogspot.com/2005/02/mapping-google.html
Article: How to make your own google maps (Engadget) http://www.engadget.com/entry/1234000917034960/
Google Map hacking wiki:

You get the idea. Google map "hacks" are popping up every day and I don't expect to see this change for some time. Unless of course the people at Google redefine the licensing arrangements for distribution of the data. These clever programmers have managed to tap into a wealth of information that is locked up inside DBs and are generating some very simple, and useful apps. Given the fact that none of these developers has paid for any of the data and are redistributing the spatial data products without paying a dime, you have to wonder how long can this go on? Will Google, keyhole, Navteq, cheapgas.com and other data providers put a stop to this? Should they put a stop to it? Personally I love seeing these apps, however, when developers start creating websites that generate millions of page hits a day without paying a dime for access to any of the data being queried and displayed in their apps will things change? Until then, bring em on... I want to see more map hacks. Of note, this article noted that Google has no intention of shutting down any of these sites until they have done something that goes against the map license/data distribution policies.

RElated info on this topic can be found at gisuser.com, lbszone.com, and maps.google.com

Are currently developing or thinking about develping a google map hack? Please be sure to share details.


2005-06-01 09:13:54
They'll be at Where 2.0
The people behind Craigs List mashup, Yahoo! traffic mashup, the rancidbacon tutorials, and the Google Maps wallpaper will all be at Where 2.0 at the end of June.
2005-06-16 09:56:20
A possible solution to Geospatial SPAM

In my blog at http://dreams2text.blogspot.com I discuss about how GPS camera phones that Digitally Sign the photos they take along with Longitude, Latitude and Timestamp information can eliminate or minimize the nuisance of GeoSpatial SPAM.

You may also be interested in another blog entry of mine titled: "The Poor Man's GPS". Please leave your comments on my blog so that I can know about your reactions

2005-06-25 08:15:46
Incidentlog.com has begun adding google maps to its large inventory of U.S. Police, Fire, and 911 Incidents containing real-time and archived data.
2005-09-27 03:39:41
Geo-referenced photos using google maps - http://www.picpoints.org
Geo-referenced photos using the Google maps API can be found at http://www.picpoints.org

2005-09-27 03:50:55
Geo-referenced photos using google maps - http://www.picpoints.org
http://www.picpoints.org ()
2005-09-30 17:05:55
Shipwreck Map
Here's another obscure, niche mashup of free data and services. I loaded the public domain NOAA shipwreck data into mySQL, created an XML interface to it with PHP and then use Google Maps (excellent system!) to map selected shipwrecks.

Not feature complete but running at:

There's more information to display for many of the wrecks but I'm working through stripping out and escaping some of the original text descriptions.


2005-10-15 10:41:55

"The average American spends 6 months during their life sitting at a red light".

Use this site to find that annoying traffic light, stop sign, roadway, or intersection and make people aware of the problem! Leave a comment or just rate the location. Even create a petition or sign one if it already exists.

Together we can live life at our destination!

2005-12-20 18:07:22
Virtual New York City Tour
Going in the same direction this website offers a nice usage of Google Maps


The website is a Virtual Tour of New York City.

2006-01-04 13:35:18
traceroute/google map integration

I've found another traceroute/Google Maps mashup. This tool allows you to traceroute by IP address or host name to see the path the packets take. You can run the trace from their server or from your PC. It's pretty slick, and has some settings you can tweak for doing the traceroute. It also can also do “whois” queries when you click on one of the hops (to find out that hop's IP). And if you just want to know where any particular computer/server/IP is you can also type in the IP or host name in their ping tool and find out if the host is up, where it is, and get the “whois” record. Seems like a very useful site/tool.

2006-03-31 16:39:13
www.HomePriceMaps.com compliments
thie HousingMaps site quite well.

while HousingMaps integrates Craigs list homes currently for sale and rent
with Google Maps, www.HomePriceMaps.com integrates how much homes SOLD for
with the google mapping technology

2006-04-02 10:01:01
Don't forget Virtual Trespassing!

Virual Trespass!

SpinTeen Date: Something Wild
2006-04-17 08:10:11
SpinTeen Date: Something Wild

SpinTeen Date provides personals and dating listings for people who like to date, looking for love, romance, or something wild. Online matchmaking and dating system. Our system includes powerful search options, advanced profiles, a live forum, and chat.

Kenneth Kline
2006-05-07 19:21:51
See recent hacker attacks on this map coded from a blockhosts script which record sshd or proftpd processes are attacked. IP is reversed with GeoIP Lite.
2006-05-14 03:58:52
Virtual Tourism shows satelitte views of sites on Google maps with acompanying videos.