Nothing beats that intuitive sense that says, “I know exactly where I’m going.” Unfortunately, we are simply not programmable, as robots are. We cannot just download directions into our brains to be stored forever, so we rely on maps. Over the years, mapping has become so much more than just street maps and road atlas functions. Today we use online maps to advise us on local businesses, news, weather, traffic and more.
Google Maps has become the template of choice for a number of local food maps. At Menurequest, you can plot restaurants on a map of your city, as well as read/write reviews, make reservations and get driving directions. In Philadelphia, Communitywalk is an amazing resource for local event organizers who want to ask a number of nearby restaurants to participate.
At Toeat, you will find a number of dining options in your neighborhood. In major cities like NY, Paris, Bangkok and Chicago, you will find baked goods at Yummybaguette. Or you may need to get your burrito fix at Burritophile. Drinkers can appreciate Wineandtimes, which helps plan a winery tour, as well as Drinktown, which lets you know all the local booze specials.
Google Maps is not the only “mashup maker” on the block, of course. A number of non-Google applications have popped up to serve a wide variety of functions. For instance, if you live on a fault line, then visit Lerdorf, as you may appreciate the “Real-Time Earthquake Map.” If you are looking for nearby bloggers, movie showtimes, gas prices or driving directions, then you can see “Atlas” (based on MSN’s Virtual Earth platform) at Atlas Freshlogicstudios.
One of the most popular mapping sites is Flickr, where amateur photographers can share their pictures and create maps of their favorite places, people and things. Readers have given rave reviews for Gutenkarte, where lit lovers can read full books (such as Jules Verne’s “Around the World in 80 Days”) chapter by chapter, while viewing a map of the locations discussed in the book. If you prefer news to fiction, don’t miss the world and local news at Mappedup or Poly9 Viavirtualearth (where MSNBC news is plotted out on a map!)
You can find directions on your computer, on your GPS device or even on your cell phone. The trend is that programmers are finding ways of bringing online maps to you, no matter where you are. For instance, if you find yourself lost somewhere with little time to recoup, never fear: Loki can track your location via satellite and send you a map to your next location on your mobile phone. A number of phones, from the iPhone to the Android G1, are making MapQuest, Google Maps and Yahoo Maps technology available to you when you are on-the-go.