Embed Google Streetview

Today I read about new cities where Google Streetview is available. At the bottom of this article, there is something about a new feature:

According to Boston.com, “Google is also introducing a mashup service today that will enable Internet users to import Street View panoramas from particular streets or neighborhoods to their own websites or blogs. The service is intended to make it easier for people to use Street View to recommend sights, locate coffee shops, or design cyber-walking tours.” More likely, Google will just extend the embedding feature to Street View imagery.

I couldn’t find more information about this new feature, so I decided to test it…..and it works. Just use the normal link to this page option when viewing the streetview. Past the HTML into your own page (or click on customize to change some settings for the embedded map) and here’s the result:

View Larger Map

This is a very nice new feature, I can think of all kinds of uses for this, eg you can display the area of your hotel, apartment, company, create a preview of your next holiday, etc.

update: feature has been officially launched on the Lat Long Blog

Google AJAX API loader

Today I was going to the Google Maps API documentation and after using it for a while, my eye was caught by this:

Screenshot Google Maps Ajax API Loader Announcement

It’s maybe a bit difficult to read from the above image, but it says:

The Google Maps API is now integrated with the Google AJAX API loader…

I couldn’t remember seeing this before, so besides clicking on the link, I googled “Google AJAX API loader”. I found out it’s a very new way of using multiple Google javascript APIs on the same page.

The main purpose for the loader is to unify namespaces across the different APIs on one page and to have only one script tag instead of separate script tags for each of the APIs you wanna use on your page.
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Google is giving away money…

To Gadget developers that is. A few days ago Google announced Google Gadget Ventures, a pilot project for funding third-party Gadget developers.

The Official Google Blog says Google wants to help developers who want to spend more time developing Gadgets and:

Our hope with Google Gadget Ventures is to help create an ecosystem where developers can spend more time doing what they love—building great Gadgets.

It’s very nice of Google to think about us pour developers, but I don’t think this is the main reason.

Google knows how important the developer community is. Without developers who want to create Gadgets, iGoogle won’t be very popular and people will go to Yahoo, Netvibes or one of the other personalized pages services. I even think there are more Netvibes modules at the moment than there are Google Gadgets. So it’s a very smart move to start awarding developers.

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Recent Google developments

Just when I didn’t had time to blog, Google decided to announce a series of new developments and features.

It started with the O’Reilly Where 2.0 conference, where Google announced the Google Street View and Mapplets.

The day after Where 2.0, Google had organized a Developer day in 10 cities around the world, where a lot of developer related stuff was launched.

In this post I’m highlighting some of the new stuff I find interesting, like new Google Maps API features, Mapplets and the Mashup Editor.

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Google Maps API first steps towards open source

This morning there’s some great news about the Google Maps API:

The Google Maps API Team is excited to announce our new open source project, the GMaps Utility Library. This project will be hosted on code.google.com and will let the Google engineers for the Maps API work hand-in-hand with the many great developers in the Maps API community. Together, we can extend the core Maps API and ensure that every developer need is met.

There are a few reasons why I think this is great news:

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Google officially unveils the Plus Box

On the Google Blog there’s an official announcement of the Plus Box feature. This feature allows extra information to be shown next to individual search results. The feature isn’t completely new, as several bloggers, including Google’s own Matt Cutts have written about it (see search engine land’s post with links to a few of them).

There are two types of Plus Box result: Stock information and maps. I don’t find stock information that interesting, but I love the maps Plus Box. If you search for a business and Google knows its address, there will be a map shown next to the search result with a marker where the address is.

At this moment most (all?) of the results are from the US. You can search for restaurants in New York and you’ll see a few examples (at the bottom of the first page). Sadly I haven’t found any business with a Map Plus Box in The Netherlands (or elsewhere in Europe). The only result with a maps Plus Box you’ll get when searching for restaurants in Amsterdam is Amsterdam Restaurant in New York 🙂

The Google Blog says they are working hard to increase the availability and I hope they will add availability of non-US businesses soon.

I’m not sure a lot of people now how they can add their business information to Google so it’ll show up in the Plus Box or in a Google Maps search. You can add your own information by using the Local Business Center. See more information at the Webmaster Help Center.

In The Netherlands most companies are registered in the Chamber of Commerce register (KvK) and this information automatically shows up in a Google Maps search. At the Local Business Center you can change and add your information (images, description, categories, etc). Before these changes will show up in the search results you have to enter a PIN you’ll get by snail mail sent to your business address.

In the Local Business Center you can also see some kind of statistics, I don’t know what kind of stats it’ll show, because I haven’t received the PIN yet. I’ve changed my information on March 8.

According to the Google Blog there will be more Plus Boxes in the future. One has already been spotted, the Video Plus Box, which shows a video in the Plus Box. I’m curious whether this will only show Youtube and Google Video results, or also videos of Google’s competitors?

Google Maps API feature request

Through this article at the geonames blog I found the ‘API Feature Requests’ page.

This page lists feature requests for the Google Maps API. If you like a feature and it’s already listed, you can write your name next to it to. If it’s not listed you can append it to the list.

There are a few very interesting feature requests.

‘Compatibility with other map APIs’. This is the feature request the article at the Geonames weblog talks about. Indeed it would be very nice if there’s a common API which is shared between all the Map vendors. There can be different reasons why you want to switch between different maps, eg the license changes, the area your application is about is covered better in a different map, etc. One problem I can think of with this approach is the that the feature set is not the same for every Map. So this common API can only cover the basics, but maybe that’s enough?

If you want a common API right away you have to take a look at projects like myMap, or Mapstraction. These projects are adding an extra layer on top of the major Map APIs from Google, Microsoft and Yahoo. You could also use the Open Layers API which also supports the APIs of these vendors.

Another nice feature request is ‘Ability to restrict geocoder to a particular region, country’. If this would be possible and your application is about a specific region you even could create an auto completion search on addresses.

If you’re using the Google Maps API a lot, take a look at the list and add your name or feature request to it.

Google geo developer day

Yesterday I got a phone call from Google. The lady on the phone said Google is organizing a Geo developer day in Amsterdam somewhere in march. She asked me to whom she could address the invitation.

After the call I realized I didn’t ask for the precise date, so I guess I have to wait for the invitation. I can’t find any information about this developers day on the web.

The lady said she got my phone number from this website. Probably the Stemlocaties Amsterdam page (Google Maps mashup with all vote locations for the Dutch General Elections) got their attention somehow 🙂

update 1: Today (March 1) I got the invitation, so now I know the date :-). The program looks very interesting, so Google count me in!

update 2: Read my report about the GeoDay