Mapping websites

How cool is this? A zipcode map (via Joho) that narrows in on candidate locations with each digit you type. Especially neat in “zoom” mode. If only I had a fair dinkum reason to look up U.S. zipcodes.

This is the sort of thing that excites me about technology, because it’s so far removed from anything that’s possible in the physical world. Map sites have improved, but they are still basically the obvious online equivalent of physical maps. This is the “tree in the paddock” scenario … if you cut down a tree in a paddock, cows still continue to bend their path around where it used to be. In the same way, old ideas continue to be applied to new technologies.

Much better to rethink the medium you’re working with.

Just for fun, here are a few things you could do with mapping websites off the top of my head:

  • Provide images customised to the user’s current needs, e.g. highlight the route between two points; superimpose landmark photos or service station locations.
  • Remember previously searched locations, even offer to highlight them on customised maps.
  • Accept a URL – and provide a relevant map or a list of possible maps. e.g. If I go to a list of hotels, I could drag/cut-and-paste/bookmarklet the map site, and it would parse the page to suggest possibly relevant maps. If you think that’s too complicated for the average user, it’s certainly not too complicated for the average webmaster to create a link to such a page.

Easier to imagine it than to create it, but none of these ideas are especially challenging from a technical perspective. If any sites already do this stuff, I’d like to know about it.