Since Google launched their maps website at the beginning of this year, developers all over the world have been “hacking” together their own interpretation of the map system, plotting everything from chicago crime scenes to farnborough hotels on top of the google map interface. At the time there was a bit of mystery as to how google would react to hundreds of third parties using their system for free.
However, as of the end of June, Google announced a Google Maps API, which effectively means that they are officially endorsing the use of their maps by third parties.
Strategically, this is an utterly brilliant move by Google. By embracing the developer community, and making their map system both free and extremely easy to implement into other sites, they will soon be the most widely used map service on the web. They will go from not having a map service, to become the world’s leading online map service in less than a year. If that isn’t a smart move, I don’t know what is!