While writing about the launch of BIGMaps Facebook application, I began thinking about how the integration between maps and other content can be improved: I use maps extensively, particularly when travelling when I’m in a city that I’m not familiar with.
Maps are becoming more and more social, so far, the integration of Latitude into Google Maps being the best that I’ve come across. BIGMaps will probably integrate Whrrl into its interface. I have a few ideas on how to increase usage of maps online, make them more fun, or just promote collection of data:
— Integration of events: networks like Facebook are increasingly being used to send out invites for events, and the integration of events will help encourage usage of maps. Events can be both private and public, and maps companies can then also list events in specific cities. Partnerships can also be forged with a company like Buzzintown for the same, or Yahoo Maps can integrate Upcoming. This will help when I’m planning a vacation: for example, when I was going to Koh Samui in Thailand, I missed the Full Moon Party by just a day. I may have altered my plans, had I known.
Additionally, if I’m a fan of Iron Maiden, and I want to know details of their concert schedule, maps would help. Post event, an integration of photos from Flickr or Picasa would also provide interesting context.
— Travel Destinations: Another layer I’d love to see is a list of travel destinations in proximity to a particular city. Given the number of three day weekends in India this year, one was often a part of conversations around locations worth driving down to around Delhi, within 6-8 hours. A layer of potential driving destinations close to major towns and cities would be very useful: maps companies can possibly generate leads for Online Travel Agents to allow bookings. They could also allow users to create their own favorite destinations and routes, and also point out suggested stop-overs, recommended detours along the way in case the road for a particular stretch is rough or crowded.
— Special occasions: take into consideration the route for the upcoming Mumbai Marathon, or historical information like the route for the Dandi March. To promote the usage of maps, irrespective of social networks, one could ask people/students to mark locations on the way and provide contextual information, which can then be verified.
— Games…Mapsville: Perhaps a clue-based treasure hunt on the map, where users need to mark out landmarks en-route. A Mapsville, if you please, given the current obsession with Zynga games (that I’ve avoided like the plague, so far). Will help BIGMaps collect data.
— Life timelines: Maps allow users to add location life with photos, which both Facebook and Orkut are being used extensively for. Look at a service like LifeBlob, and the contextual information that can be compiled together with additional information on maps. Integration of multiple social networks into the map service itself makes a separate site like LifeBlob irrelevant.
— Location specific chats: this may be a recipe for disaster (when you consider how much time social networks eat up in offices, and risk of kids giving out too much info on unmoderated chats), but location specific chat (and if allowed by the social network) is another possible integration.
— News: While not necessarily applicable only to Social Networks, if I’m visiting a particular country or city, some context provided by news really helps, alongwith weather informtion. I’m surprised that Google hasn’t integrated Google News into Maps yet. News also offers tremendous historical context to maps, though a succinct editorialized version like Wikipedia, which has been integrated into Google Maps, would be useful.
These are just some off-the-cuff ideas, not really taking into account the potential returns on investment. Your ideas?