Yahoo Offers Some Keys to Maps

Yahoo unveiled the next iteration of Yahoo Maps, adding new interactivity and features.

An overview map shows the area of the main map in its greater context of surrounding towns. If a user is signed in with a Yahoo account, the application opens showing his or her default location.

The interface has been reorganized, with a column on the left containing boxes for entering addresses and for a search term to find on the map. Yahoo has integrated its local search and listings, letting users browse by four business categories: travel, ATMs and services, entertainment and shopping, or restaurants and bars. Frills include auto-completion of addresses based on information from users’ Yahoo Address Books

The updated version lets users get multi-point driving directions by clicking from one point to another on the map. Wary commuters can quickly turn the map into a live traffic view by clicking a button.

The map application uses Flash, but Yahoo offers APIs for developers who want to use either java-script-based APIs for Flash or AJAX . So-called building block APIs include geo-coding, Yahoo Local, traffic information and map images.

Third parties can host Yahoo maps on their sites. But the terms and conditions, which limit usage to 50,000 queries per day and don’t allow commercial use, came under harsh criticism from Robert Scoble, Microsoft’s technical evangelist. Scoble lumped Microsoft Virtual Earth, as well, saying both were doomed.

Scoble pointed out that Google , the dominant search player, sees all its products as advertising platforms. Web publishers who show Google’s contextual advertising on their sites won’t be able to show Yahoo Maps or Microsoft Virtual Earth data next to them.

Microsoft doesn’t offer an equivalent to AdSense, and Yahoo’s Publisher Network began testing in March and still is in limited beta. So for now, AdSense is the only way for small publishers to generate ad revenue.

The solution, Scoble wrote, was for Yahoo and Microsoft to change the terms of use to make it possible for publishers to run their maps next to Google’s AdSense ads. “That will require telling the bean counters to sit down and be quiet,” he wrote. “That won’t be easy. Google knows this and is laughing all the way to the bank.”

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