November 2, 2005 9:00 PM PST

Yahoo goes drag-and-drop for mapping

Yahoo on Thursday released the public beta of its new Yahoo Maps service, which is designed to make maneuvering the map easier and allow users to quickly create multiple-point driving directions.

The upgraded Yahoo Maps is more tightly integrated with Yahoo Local, allowing users to quickly find, for instance, the locations of Mexican restaurants in a particular neighborhood by typing in things like "best margarita" or "outdoor seating" or other category types or descriptions.

In addition, users can now type in a business address and the service will display the business name, phone number, user rating and link to additional information.

The new service also aims to make it easy to map out driving directions with multiple stops, including the ability to drag-and-drop specific businesses into the route. The map is larger and includes a collapsible mini-map with a shadow box that can easily be dragged around to shift the neighborhood displayed in the larger map.

The service automatically stores frequently referenced destinations, which can also be set to automatically fill in a search box using a nickname. Users can click on the browser's "back" button to see the previous map action, and the map can automatically be configured for a printing layout.

"The interface is cleaner and better" than before, said Greg Sterling, an analyst at The Kelsey Group. "You can drag the map around without reloading it and the data changes as you drag it."

Yahoo also said it is releasing two new types of mapping application programming interfaces (APIs) designed to give developers more flexibility in creating applications that combine their own content with Yahoo maps.

Yahoo is offering Flash and Ajax programming versions of a Syndication API and a set of Building Block APIs for Yahoo Maps, which require more programming skills than the Simple Publishing API released in June, Yahoo said.

In addition, Yahoo is releasing an extension to the Simple Publishing API. The new downloadable Microsoft Excel plug-in creates a Web page with content from a developer's Excel spreadsheet onto a Yahoo Map to create a map mash-up without requiring any programming.

The Syndication and Building Block APIs will allow developers to embed a Yahoo map into their own Web page instead of having it hosted on the Yahoo Web page, Sterling said.

Google's mapping API has always allowed developers to host their mash-ups on their own Web sites, which partially explains why there are so many Google Maps mash-ups, he said.

"It's easy to plug in Google Maps and it was hosted on your site. Google lets you take and run with their maps and Yahoo until today did not," Sterling said. "This will boost Yahoo's (map) use on third-party sites."

3 comments

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Awesome
Ever since the release of Google Maps, nothing on the web was as spectacular as the new Yahoo Maps. It is beautiful - traffic data, local info, drag-and drop, good-printing, and many more - Wow! Yahoo proves again that it is a force to reckon with. This map is way better than Google's, actually it is like Google Earth in your browser. Way to go Yahoo.

As a side-effect, this news will revive the presence of Flash, which was slowly getting sidelined due to the recent AJAX Mania.
Posted by (42 comments )
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Misdirected Focus
Personally, I feel Yahoo in taking steps in the wrong direction.
Granted, it's nice to have the new features they provide with their map services, but what about when it comes to user relations?

Yahoo has a bad habit of removing user accounts without any form of warning or ability to correct whatever the reason may be that they've chose to remove the account.
There again, when you try to get in touch with Yahoo to find out what happened, there's no contact address. Only this poorly managed support application program they seem to have installed on the site.
When you do choose to fill out the form, you have to run through specific help topics, which don't list every single help discussion.

Afterwards, you have to hope and pray you're at least somebody in the world that they would take the effort to contact.

When you lose your account with Yahoo, you also lose your complete contact list in the Messenger application Yahoo has created.

Again, the focus should be on the current relations between Yahoo and its users, and whether or not they truly care.

It's not that hard an effort to send an e-mail to a user and alert them of whatever they may be doing wrong. It's more of an effort to delete their entire accounts.
Instead, they leave you wondering what it was all about in the first place.

In my opinion, until they correct this problem, Yahoo still sucks in my books.

Besides, Google came out with fresh ideas before Yahoo. Otherwise, Yahoo wouldn't be makn' the efforts to match and increase.
What makes you think Google won't simply pull out bigger guns as before?
Posted by scootz (1 comment )
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Misdirected focus: I agree!
I agree that Yahoo! has issues. In my case, Yahoo trashed my Yahoo Mail Plus (*premium*) account, which put me totally out of commission for a week. I couldn't login through their web site, couldn't POP in, nothing. It's my main e-mail account, which I use for business and personal use. I called them several times, and their response was that they didn't know what was causing the problem! It was especially frstrating because people kept writing me e-mail, and a lot of those e-mails bounced.

In the end, the account was finally fixed, but Yahoo made no effort to make it right. They never gave me a break on the $20 I paid them for the "premium" service, nor did I ever feel like they had control of the problem.

As for wanting to compete with Google, it's in their best interest to want to compete with Google. And they *should* compete with Google -- more competitors in web tools mean better quality and lower costs for consumers. But while they're fighting Google, maybe they should also be taking care of their existing customer base. I sure don't feel like I was really taken care of that well with the whole e-mail fiasco.
Posted by andyengle (74 comments )
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