Nov 2

Nat Torkington

Nat Torkington

Yahoo! Announce Next-Gen Maps API

During the Web 2.0 conference last month, Tim, Rael, and I had the opportunity to check out the new Yahoo! Maps. I was particularly gratified to see that they've rectified a lot of the usage problems with the previous iteration of Yahoo! Maps, and that they've absolutely kicked ass with the API. Last night the new maps site and the new APIs went live.

What's new? The big news is that they finally have a dynamic map view that's similar to that provided by Google Maps, but with some very nice improvements. They've got a sexy zoom control, and clever improvements to the usability of features and routes (trivial to build multi-point trips, create roundtrips, and use your saved locations). For Local, they have nifty features like geoRSS feed for searches, local, and traffic around locations. Most notably, though, the default view is Flash-based. There's an Ajax version of the API available for the Flash-averse, but I think the more seamless control offered by Flash will prove too convenient to throw aside.

On the API front, there are huge changes. Huge. You can embed the Flash and Ajax maps components in your page, with the same use cases as the Google Maps Javascript API. But unlike Google (and this is a first) they have an official free API for geocoding. It covers the US and Canada, and I won't be at all surprised to see Google-Yahoo! mashups as some of the first round of coding: using the familiar Google Maps API with the Yahoo! geocoder. But I wager Google Maps developers will be sorely tempted by the Yahoo! mapping component's API--it's easier to do more powerful (and elegant) things with Flash than with Ajax. You can do more with the Yahoo! APIs than you can with Google's. And though it might be old news, I was impressed with the Excel component so you can build maps straight from Excel, no programming needed (example).

It's interesting to note this prominently displayed term of use in their API documentation. Google has a version of the same clause. As the geowankers point out, GPS sensors + routing API + Google Maps + clever coding = your own in-car navigation, and that's NAVTEQ's bread and butter. If you look at the credit at the bottom right of the images, they're credited to both NAVTEQ and TeleAtlas (previously it was just NAVTEQ) whereas Google's are just TeleAtlas. I suspect the stronger wording of this clause was a bitter pill Yahoo! was forced to swallow to offer API access to the more reliable NAVTEQ data:

You may use location data derived from GPS or other location sensing devices in connection with the Yahoo! Maps APIs, provided that such location data is not based on real-time (i.e., less than 6 hours) GPS or any other real-time location sensing device, the GPS or location sensing device that derives the location data cannot automatically (i.e. without human intervention) provide the end user's location, and any such location data must be uploaded by an end-user (and not you) to the Yahoo! Maps APIs.

Legalese aside, this release is a major strike by Yahoo! I didn't think their first maps API was anything to write home about, but they haven't just played catch-up to Google with their second maps API. They've overtaken Google in functionality and in elegance. A much-needed offensive in the mapping wars. Next up ... someone has to offer AdSense for locations so I can make money from my mashups ...

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Comments: 11

  Dave Cross [11.03.05 07:33 AM]

Google Maps still have one huge advantage over Yahoo! Maps for those of us not in the US - coverage.

  Brian [11.03.05 08:17 AM]

Yahoo! can be a late player but they can never take back Google's maps success thus far. The best they can do is try to squeeze their name into this chapter of the history book as authored by Google.

I'm also skeptical of Flash. I don't know about you, but of all the umpteen dozens of Flash applications etc.. that i've seen over the years, a Flash app has never made it into my daily regimen. Even Flickr nixed Flash for the large majority of the site (for good reason). And I don't think I can ever forgive Flash for being the delivery vehicle of the most in-your-face and banal advertisements the Internet has ever seen (You know the ones...they are giant and you have to search for a close button - worst yet, they have been accepted by many major players as valid advertisements. Shame on Macromedia.)

  Mihai Parparita [11.03.05 08:18 AM]

One key difference between the Google and Yahoo APIs is that Google allows commercial use (including your AdSense allusion) while Yahoo explictly forbids it.

  Jareed [11.03.05 09:28 AM]

It's a good play on Yahoo's part (especially the geocoding part which has been sorely missing from Google's offering), but I don't see the flash part really providing a significantly improved user experience. It seems to be trying to do too much, it's just a little too flashy! The quick and dirty of the Google Maps API still remains a better offering IMHO.

Still competition in this arena is a great thing and will hopefully spurn Google into a solid response.

  Stewart Butterfield [11.03.05 11:47 AM]

Brian: "Yahoo! can be a late player but they can never take back Google's maps success thus far. The best they can do is try to squeeze their name into this chapter of the history book as authored by Google."

Eh? Sorry, Google? You mean Mapquest? Depending whose stats you follow, they are still 4x to 6x bigger than Google Maps in marketshare. (Yahoo is either slightly ahead or slightly behind Mapquest - again, depending who you follow.)

  D. Urech [11.03.05 01:12 PM]

@Stewart: Can you please indicate the resource of these statistics?

  Stewart Butterfield [11.03.05 01:26 PM]

Here's one public one: but mostly it is from Comscore and Netratings, both of which you have to pay to get access to.

  John Dowdell [11.03.05 08:27 PM]

Brian, am I correct in understanding that the root of your aversion is because you've seen some objectionable advertisements in SWF?

If that could magically go away somehow, would the root problem for you go away too? Or is there something else besides that, that I could work on in the meantime?

(Me, I think the Flash Platform is a technology, a practical option on the world's computer's today, and it's a rapidly-accelerating technology too. When I see webdev-oriented people have a reaction against such a choice, then I feel a compulsion to learn why, thanks in advance.


  D. Urech [11.07.05 08:22 AM]

@Stewart: Thanks for the list of references. I didn't have the cash to make extensive research, so I close here we've my short snap insight.

I searched for comscore, but unfortunately the Office Location in Europe contains no mapping link.

At least comscore could provide a mapping link to their Office in London ,don't let the technology brand decide, the strategy follows the Processes.

First visiting Nielson-Netratings my Firefox Browser crashed several times. Here I stopped the journey.

  Andrew Bidochko [11.07.05 02:50 PM]

The most wanted geo service is live - Yahoo released Geocoding API. IMHO the major benefit of Yahoo Geocoding API is floating precision level in the API response. For example Yahoo returns number of geocoded results for "Sunnyvale" if we do not specify state or zip.
Live example available @ Geo!Suggest

  lace [04.04.07 08:54 PM]

The yahoo maps look interesting but the pages at Yahoo hardly EVER load for me.
Google is really great excepting the map api will not work on international domain names. I have several of them.
Neither company has well written tutorials and help sections are poor also.

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