Google Maps API v3 Launched

Google has just announced that a new version of its Google Maps API (our Google Maps API Profile) is available as a beta release. The new version of the popular API has been developed from the ground up as a modularized set of JavaScript libraries focused on improving load speed and performance. At the Google IO Conference, the Google Maps API team indicated that the new API offers several advantages over the previous API, which originally was not designed to be as extensible or feature rich as it has become.

According to the Google Geo Developers Blog:

The primary motivation behind this new version was speed, especially for rendering maps on mobile browsers. Last year, several of us starting thinking about the possibility of getting the JavaScript Maps API to work on mobile devices. With the advent of powerful, fully functional browsers on devices such as the iPhone and the Android-based G1, why couldn't we bring the flexibility and reach of modern web development to people who wanted to write maps mashups for mobile phones? While we've been able to get the existing v2 API working on mobile browsers, we found we were constrained when trying to reduce latency and we needed a new approach. And thus was born the idea for the next revision of the Maps API.

The new Google Maps API has been released as part of Google Labs, indicating that it is not yet a mature release, although we expect that the new API will likely become the preferred API for developers, given its speed and performance improvements. Google has also provided a summary overview of what is new in V3 of the Maps API:

  • Chrome and iPhone Safari mobile added to our supported browsers. Your mashups will also work on Android-based phones with the recent update, but you may notice some issues, like the "View/Save Image" dialog showing unexpectedly. We're working with the Android team to fix this and improve the end user's experience in interacting with the map. We could've waited until it's perfect, but we really wanted to get an early release in your hands and start getting feedback while we fix up a few remaining issues.
  • No keys required. You can now copy 'n paste code easily or embed in RSS readers, for example, without getting key errors.
  • MVC-based architecture. This allowed us to significantly reduce the size of our initial JavaScript download. We found it to be simple and powerful.
  • Default UI is enabled automatically. We'll provide default UI controls and behavior (and we'll update them) so your mashup can keep up with the latest and greatest changes we make to Google Maps. Of course, if you've got customized controls you're happy with, you can disable the default UI updates.
  • Namespaces. Everything is always in the google.maps.* namespace and there is no "G" prefixed variables in the global scope.
  • Geocoding API has been overhauled based on the feedback we've received with the existing implementation over the past three years.

This is certainly an exciting release, given that the Google Maps API is the most popular API (1,697 mashups!) in our API directory. Google has set up new documentation and a new Group for developers to get started with the API.

Be sure to read the next Mapping article: IP Geolocation Worst Practices