At Web 2.0 Summit, Stewart Butterfield announced that Flickr is going to be rolling out a new Maps interface and Flickr Places to highlight their geo-tagged photos. They have an amazing amount of photos (1.38 Billion) with a new geotagged photo coming almost every second and felt that they needed new ways to surface them.
Flickr Places is the most significant part of the announcement. On the surface it is a method of exploring Flickr with geo-specific pages. The page shows the most interesting photos for a location (iconic photos they call them), the most recent and common tags for the photos and the most prolific photo groups. It creates a separate page for each geographic location with a unique human-readable URL. Places go down to the city level so San Francisco, Seattle, and London will each have their own page and unique URL. In time they will go deeper. Places will be accessible via the Flickr API.
Creating a unique human-readable (and hackable) URL structure is not easy. The structure is http://flickr.com/places/ <country>/<territory or state>/<city> for example London will be http://flickr.com/places/gb/england/london. On these pages Flickr has expanded beyond just photos to include weather data. In the future one could picture other geo-specific bits of Yahoo! appearing on Places and becoming the definitive Yahoo! page for a location.
Flickr is also adding a new maps interface that focuses on recent hot tags. Up till now they have shown their geo-tagged photos as points on a map, showing the previous five minutes’ photos. With the new system they will surface the hottest tags from the past 4 days (with an update cycle of every 20 minutes). The tags will change if you refresh the page. The strip below show representative photos. They zoom out if you mouse over them. At this point the hot tags map is only available at the world zoom-level.
Flickr is definitely doing some of the most innovative geo-work on the web. I suspect that has a lot to do with the Geowankers on the team, Rev Dan Catt and Kellan Elliott-McCrea, who designed and built these features (prototyping originally with the public Flickr API). I look forward to kicking the tires on the actual release in a couple of weeks.