Happy birthday: Google Maps API Turns 5!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010 at 1:20 PM


Today is an important milestone here at Google and we’re all pretty excited - the Google Maps API turns 5! It was five years ago today that we posted a brief announcement to let the world know about the JavaScript Maps API and now 5 years later more than 350,000 active websites make use of it. Uses have ranged from tools that have made it easier to find an apartment, track the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and even make an Earth sandwich! Many, many more examples have been chronicled on sites like Mashable and the Google Maps Mania blog.

In 2005, Adrian Holovaty launched the first crime mashup that overlaid Chicago’s public crime data onto online maps providing Chicago’s citizens and journalists with a true picture of crime in their city. The site won the 2005 Batten Award for Innovations in Journalism and was named by The New York Times as one of 2005's best ideas.

In honor of this very special birthday, we took a chance to check back in with Adrian to see what he thought about the journey of the Google Maps API over the past 5 years:

“Of my 11 years of doing Web development, Spring 2005 was the most interesting and exciting time. When Google Maps launched -- with maps assembled client-side, in JavaScript! -- I was one of the band of tinkerers around the globe who poked at Google's obfuscated code until we figured out how to embed their maps in our own pages. It was a ton of fun, not only doing the reverse engineering, but seeing the various discoveries and hacks other people were making: embedding multiple maps in a single page, swapping out the map tiles, using custom map markers, making markers move, loading real-time data onto maps... New discoveries were being made on a seemingly daily basis, and the best ones built on the other ones, which led to a sense of a community contributing to a greater understanding.

“These days, it's hard to fathom a Web without embeddable maps. Wasn't it always that way? To Google's eternal credit, instead of shutting these hacks down, they recognized the demand and legitimized it in the form of their mapping API.

“And the rest is... well, kind of boring in its simplicity, now that reverse engineering isn't involved. There was something raw and pure about those original hacks, like hunting and skinning your own food, living off the land, a digital self-sustainability. I feel like an old man yelling at kids to get off my lawn: ‘Back in my day, I had to reverse engineer Google's obfuscated JavaScript to get embeddable maps on my pages!’ You don't know how good you have it.”
The Google Maps API has seen some significant milestones of its own during the past five years. Some of the announcements we’re most proud of are the Maps API for Flash, Static Maps API, our Enterprise offering Maps API Premier, and the new Maps API v3, built with mobile use cases in mind and recently graduated from Code Labs.

The Google Maps API has established itself as the most popular Google API and the most deployed service-based API on the web. We continue to be amazed by how popular this API continues to be for web and mobile apps being developed today. This ProgrammableWeb dashboard shows that of the apps built and submitted over the past 2 weeks, a quarter of them make use of the Google Maps API. Click the 'All Time' tab and you'll see that nearly half of the almost 5000 cataloged mashups use it.

Today, on this 5 year milestone, we really have all of you to thank for this incredible chapter in web and mapping development. The remarkable levels of innovation, creativity and interest have come from all of you. You saw the possibilities the Google Maps API held and what it could be combined with to create, and you built it. Now join us to celebrate! Keir Clarke from Google Maps Mania has created a mashup that we want all of you to contribute to. Please tag your Google Maps mashup or tool to the map wherever you are:



Since we can’t all share a giant cake, I think it’s fitting that we all build a giant mashup of mashups to mark this special API birthday. We’re looking forward to the next 5 years of mapping innovation together with all of you!