In music, when you create a new song by taking the melody from one song and the lyrics from another, it is called a mashup. A lot of times things go poorly, but now and then the results are stunning. What happens when you take pieces from two web sites and mix them together? You get a Web 2.0 mashup.
The Web is moving from a collection of disconnected web sites to a ubiquitous computing platform. This new reality is often referred to as Web 2.0. In the beginning, we had static web sites with a few links between them. This evolved into dynamic content and data-driven sites. The next step has been using the web as a platform.
eBay is a useful site for buying and selling trinkets, trash, or treasure. In that role, it is what might be called "Web 1.5." But eBay is also a platform. There is a whole ecology that has built up around eBay that uses the platform in ways that were not initially intended by the programmers.
Amazon and Google Search have also become platforms. Amazon, eBay, and Google (not to mention Flickr, del.icio.us, and many more) have created public Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) that allow anyone to mix and match information from one site with information from another.
The missing piece in the ecology of open web APIs has been location. Nearly everything we do, on the Web or off, has a location. Everything we touch, write about, read, think, or work on has to happen somewhere. Everything has a geospatial component. Perhaps the geospatial component of some things is irrelevant. Do you really care where you were when you remembered to add dish soap to your shopping list?
Yes! We are the species that looks for patterns, and where we are, and where we have been, is one of the strongest sources of pattern in our lives! We are able to learn huge amounts from rooting through other people's trash, er, treasureand we can learn similar amounts by analyzing the debris of our passing as recorded in position.
At the Where 2.0 conference in San Francisco in June of 2005, Tim O'Reilly explained his fascination with Paul Rademacher's Housing Maps site (http://www.housingmaps.com), described in "Find a Place to Live" [Hack #23]: "Google Maps with Craigslist is the first true Web 2.0 application, as neither of the sites was involved…. A developer put it together. Hackers are teaching the industry what to do."
Google Maps brought location into the world of open APIs, and the results have been stunning! The result brilliantly demonstrates the elegance of the Web 2.0 concepta brave new world in which hackers can combine open standards and open APIs in novel ways to create new sites and services that fill a need or are sometimes just plain cool.
Mixing it up with data or code from multiple sites is the heart of the Web 2.0 experience. These mashups are leading the way to a Web that allows each of us to author our unique experiences of the Web, and to share those experiences with others.
In this chapter we explore just a few of the nearly countless Google Maps mashups that have come into existence in just a few months.