Google, Yahoo Woo Developers to Online Maps

The rivals release APIs for allowing developers to layer information onto the competitors' mapping services, but the companies take different technical approaches.

Google and Yahoo have opened a new front in their online mapping battle: winning over developers.

Both companies on Wednesday released APIs into their respective online mapping services as they attempt to attract other Web sites to use their maps.

While they are focusing on how developers can overlay information on maps, the companies are taking different technical approaches.

Google is targeting developers who want to embed its maps into their sites using JavaScript, while Yahoo is focused on tapping RSS for the creation of custom maps that continue to reside on the Yahoo Maps site.

Competition among online map services has become increasingly intense this year after Google entered the space and as attention has turned to more closely tying maps with local search.

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For its API, Google Inc. is offering a toolkit for developers who want to create applications that interact with the Google Maps system.

The Google Maps API works in conjunction with Googles street maps and not the satellite images built into the service, a Google spokesman said.

While the Mountain View, Calif., company wouldnt offer details, it hinted at the possibility of inserting ads within the maps on other sites. The maps also will include a Google logo and link to the Google Maps site.

Yahoo, of Sunnyvale, Calif., is letting developers layer geographic content such as weather reports, school district boundaries and vacation photos onto its maps.

The Yahoo Maps API uses the GeoRSS format in order for developers to add geographic content onto a map, said Jeremy Kreitler, a Yahoo senior product manager.

"Were trying to encourage people to bring online as much local information as possible, and one of the barriers to people doing that is having to learn a specific way to talk to software or to build applications themselves," Kreitler said.

Yahoo also has created an extension to GeoRSS that can understand street addresses as an alternative to providing the latitude and longitude coordinates typically required in GeoRSS, Kreitler said.

The Yahoo Maps API extends a technology Yahoo calls SmartView to developers. Yahoo already uses SmartView to add its own content, such as local-search listings and traffic information, on top of Yahoo Maps, Kreitler said.

In other online maps news this week:

Google is offering both a free download of the software as well as a $20 premium version that adds GPS compatibility, data import and annotation features.

  • MSN took another step toward releasing its aerial maps service called MSN Virtual Earth.

The Internet division of Microsoft Corp. announced a partnership on Wednesday with ORBIMAGE Holdings Inc. to add global satellite imagery to Virtual Earth when it becomes available later this summer.

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