So I’ve been thinking a lot today about the role of Google Maps. Millions of people use the service, it got name-checked in the Lazy Sunday/Chronicles of Narnia rap on SNL, it’s got a lot of cool tools and an API that makes it easy for folks to do their own mash-ups. Basically, it’s a tool/service that’s ripe for some really cool implementations.
Recently, HBO made a big splash in the promotion of the upcoming season of The Sopranos by putting together a map of important events from the previous season. The map lives on HBO and includes clever waypoint icons and cool informational pop-ups that feature still photography. Overall, a very customized and slick effort.
A Seinfeld fan has created a somewhat similar map with memorable locations from that series. You can still contribute to his effort. A potential idea for my day job? We’ve certainly had a prettier map for Sex and the City for a while now. Maybe it’s time to update our approach to a more open platform that will get us some press.
So those are all cool uses of Google Maps for plotting out entertainment “properties” in the real world, but what about actual property? Bill and I were talking earlier today and a few ideas came about that involved a level of specificity not currently found on Google Maps: building/street address level mapping. Sure, you can see your house from a satellite view or troll Disney World, but it’s not really functionally helpful is it?
Enter Micromapping ® ™:
What is micromapping? Say you’re Disney and you want folks to easily obtain a digital copy of the map you provide of all your theme parks? With Mouse-eared Mickeys as waypoints? And nifty photos of the rides and happy families? And park hours? And tram routes, ticket prices and clearly-marked restrooms? That’s a micro-map.
Basically, anyone (Disney, The Mall of America, your local IKEA store) could upload a map of a specific, street address-level business and have that map display when users input that address. It could live on the Google Maps site and be notated by a special icon or it could live on the advertiser/sponsor site and exist with the standard controls and overlay of Google Maps. Either way, it could mean more reach and more revenue for Google.
Think about it, a map of your local strip mall or big box retailer might be invaluable if you want to make the most of a lunchtime errand run or weekend trip. Or how about the Disney example? You could (potentially) plan the exact route you take in the park without the need for an expensive guidebook or pre-mailed packet from Disney or AAA or whomever. You could even share your custom micromap, built from an existing micro-map, to maximize your vacation. Your waypoints could link to Flickr photos of your trip, or a list of purchases you made. The whole system is ripe for mash-up exploitation.
Again, revenue and added value are the impetus here. Google could sell a professional service to help Disney or whomever turn their existing maps into immersive experiences. Users could take these micromaps and include them on their site or make their own. Imagine how could it would be to create a micromap of the floorplan of your house. Then you could link this micromap to a for sale listing on Craig’s List or Edgeio or even a major realty website. Think about the implementations and implications.
I think, by and large, Google Maps is only beginning to be utilized to it’s fullest potential. Rather than getting larger, Google needs to embrace it’s Google Local brand and go smaller. Go for the individuals and the very specific locations that need mapping the most. Who knows, in the future we could see everything from homes for sale to beer vendors at your local baseball stadium mapped out and available from one central location with a global navigational interface.
Whadda ya think?
UPDATE: I want to make it abundantly clear that Bill’s ideas involve Disney and the Mall of America, my own are the beer vendors at the ballpark and the homeselling scenario. Both are outgrowths of our discussion today, but Bill had been thinking of his for a while. Just making sure credit is given where credit is due.