Google Incorporated is now providing free tools designed to make it easy for people to share their local geographical knowledge by creating customized maps that can assemble information from a variety of sources. Thousands of hybrid maps are already available on the Web, documenting everything from local housing markets to active volcanoes. Google has simplified the task that typically requires some computer coding skills and is allowing users to create map mashups with just their mouse. The map creators will be given the option to make the content public or keep it private. The Mountain View-based company is hoping the simplicity will generate millions of highly specialized maps that can be stored in its search index.
"This is a big change. Even if we cut loose all our developers, we could never create maps with the same depth and quality as our users can," said Jessica Lee, product manager of Google maps. Google's maps already are a big draw, with 22.2 million U.S. visitors during February, according to the most recent data available from comScore Media Metrix. That ranked Google maps third in its category, trailing AOL's Mapquest (45.1 million visitors) and Yahoo (29.1 million visitors).