Considering the effect it has had on the world, it is perhaps ironic that–up to now–the Internet has never really mastered the constraints of geography. Ever tried to use it to figure out which pizza joint is closest to your house?
All that is now changing, with the appearance of easy-to-use satellite images (maps) from Google Maps, and the phenomenon of mash-ups–combining those maps with other data to show the geographical location of that information. At the epicentre of all the fuss is a quiet Canadian account manager who has become the world's most quoted expert on mash-ups.
Mike Pegg, who works for software firm SlipStream Data Inc. in Waterloo, Ont., stumbled across his first Google Map mash-up this past April. “It was an online real estate listing service in San Francisco that used push-pins to show where all the houses were on a map,” Pegg recalls. “I just thought: 'Wow, this is so cool.'” He immediately started compiling all the mash-ups he could find on his website, www.gmapsmania.com. As mash-ups grew in popularity over the summer, the task of cataloguing them all became impressively large. Pegg now lists mash-ups that range from the locations of released sex offenders to rare bird sightings to vegetarian restaurants on his site. During Hurricane Katrina, mash-up volunteers helped rescuers search out stranded residents.
For Pegg's efforts at becoming the Dr. Johnson of mash-ups, he's been quoted in newspapers from Argentina to Germany, including major U.S. publications such as USA Today and The New York Times. Everyone wants to know if mash-ups are the next big thing for the Internet. Certainly, they have the potential to revolutionize advertising–and help that hungry consumer find the nearest takeout joint.
“The map will eventually become your web page,” Pegg opines. “Maps can act as a filter to make the information on the Internet relevant to you and your community. We could see the real world and the virtual world finally coming together.”