This post is part of our Hottest Products of 2007 feature. Also check out our other Hottest Products of 2007 posts and let us know which product you think is the greatest thing since sliced bread.
2007 may go down as the year people's perceptions of what a map is changed forever, and proved the value of user-generated content. Much of that sea change can be credited to Google Maps.
Maps -- for centuries static, analog pieces of information -- have gone digital, allowing us to add layer upon layer of additional information, in a variety that strains imagination. For example:
- Maps that contain links to photographs of the noted location. If you want to know what the intersection of the Dawson and Dempster highways in Alaska looks like, you might find it on a Google Map. (Hint: There's a big sign warning hunters that it is illegal to leave gut piles within 1 km of the road).
- Fans of the writer Patrick O'Brian (such as myself), can refer to a user-generated Google Map tracing the travels of his heroes Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin.
- Followers of the television show The Amazing Race can track the participants' progress on a Google Map.
- The Los Angeles Times created a Google map for readers to track the progress of the recent outburst of wildfires.
- A runner in the New York Marathon created a Google Map updated from the BlackBerry in his pocket that allowed his friends to track his progress along the route.
- American Airlines created a map that guided its customers to locations where they could make purchases that added points to their frequent flyer accounts.
The beauty of Google Maps is several fold: ease of use, ease of distribution, the ability to layer in information regardless of format (spreadsheets, databases, photos, video, music), at no cost. Google Maps is perhaps the best example of the incredible potential of user-generated content.
One more advantage -- when you're done, you don't have to figure out how to refold the damn things.
If you've had some experience with this product, let us know about it. Or if you know of something else that you think is one of the Hottest Products of 2007, feel free to tell us about that as well.