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"You can plan a jogging route and it calculates when you should take rests," said Bret Taylor, product manager of Google Local, which includes Google Maps. "It amazes us how popular this site is."
The "about" section of Gmaps Pedometer explains: "As a runner training for a marathon for the first time, I found myself wishing I had an easy way to know the exact distance a certain course is, without having to drag a GPS or pedometer around on my runs. Looking at Google Maps, and knowing there was a vibrant community of geeks hacking it, I knew there had to be a way. So here it is."
Real estate and travel mashups, which inherently lend themselves to geographically specific information, are proving particularly hot. Some examples: Dartmaps, for real-time locations of commuter trains in Dublin, FBOweb.com, for tracking airline flight status, and TravelPost.com, which allows travelers to post journals and photos on maps, as well as get hotel reviews.
"Travelers often have a world map on their wall with thumbtacks of where they've been," TravelPost.com Chief Executive Sam Shank said. "I wanted to carry that online. I thought it was an incredible metaphor for travels."
For those not worried about a housing bubble, HomePriceRecords.com lists how much people paid for their homes, while real estate mashups Trulia.com and HomePages.com combine data on homes for sale with detailed neighborhood information such as park and school locations.
Other mashups have a distinct community or social perspective, such as CommunityWalk.com, which allows people to create and share maps, WeFixNYC.com, which features a map showing the potholes in New York City and tracks how long it takes to fix them, and Zvents.com, which lets people search for events according to type, date or location.
Still more are combining photos and maps, such as SmugMaps.com, which allows people to do location-based searching for photos around the globe, and Amazon.com's A9 map service, which shows street-level photos for specific addresses.
"Taking a picture and putting it on a map ties it to the real world in a way that the Internet hasn't been able to do yet," said Jared Upton-Cosulich, founder of CommunityWalk.com. "In general, the Internet has not been good at giving this information. What's near me? What's in my neighborhood? A map makes that information easy to digest."
One Web site called KMaps, has created software built on top of Google Maps that allows people to get location-based information on various mobile devices, such as the addresses of nearby restaurants and directions to get there. Developers have already expanded the applications to include the ability to quickly find a date in the neighborhood and other social networking uses.
As with all successful technologies, of course, commercial interests are never far behind, and mapping is no exception. While mashups typically are labors of love created by passionate people who want to share information with others, businesses see the potential for highly targeted advertising and other lucrative applications.
"If you can build an interface and database that is useful, you can serve contextual and geo-targeted advertising against it," said Greg Sterling, an analyst at The Kelsey Group.
Because they are linked to relevant information, search- or keyword-based advertisements are more effective than traditional "display" ads designed simply to promote a brand. Targeting ads not only to a keyword search but to a person's specific location could be even more effective.
It can be assumed, for example, that someone searching for restaurants in a particular neighborhood may well be planning on dining there. That kind of specific behavioral prediction is exactly the kind of incentive that can lure local merchants, who have declined advertisements to global readerships in the past because they were not worth the relatively high price.