Let Google Be Your Geo Database

When Google announced its Maps Data API it provided programmatic access to the features available in the Google My Maps product (more at our Google Maps API profile). With it, developers can create, organize and update maps. Could it also replace a database for holding geographic points?

Platial, a mapping Platform to share stories, thinks so. It was an alpha tester for the API, rewriting its backend to use Google to store its points. The API provides access to lines, shapes and the most common placemarks, which are created by latitude/longitude coordinates. Just as Google's My Maps is useful for creating maps without JavaScript programming, the Maps Data API can be used for those who don't want to run their own database.

However, this first version of the Maps Data API can't perform advanced queries, though many casual mapping users will find the service sufficient for maintaining a simple list of places. Most of Google's products start simply and become more powerful once the initial concept has been proven.

Add Google Maps to your website, Quick or Advanced?

Recently Google created a microsite that segments their Maps users into two groups. Some need advanced features, while others want to simply copy and paste. There is a large middle ground of users who would like a more powerful map than what My Maps has, but don't want to go to the work to figure out spatial database queries.

Hopefully Google is dipping its toe into being a geo database. Look for more advanced queries in the future, such as finding places near a point. With a few more features, the potential is there for the Google Maps Data API to be as popular as Google Maps itself.

Be sure to read the next Mapping article: Make Bing Maps Sing In PHP